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First Edition, i vol. Bvo. 1899. 
Second Edition, with additional Chapters, 1 vol. Ex. Crown %vo. 1901. 





YOU may remember that after my return from a second 
sojourn in West Africa, when I had been to work at 
fetish and fresh-water fishes, I published a word-swamp 
of a book about the size of Norie's Navigation. Mr. 
George Macmillan lured me into so doing by stating that 
if I gave my own version of the affair I should remove 
misconceptions ; and if I did not it was useless to object 
to such things as paragraphs in American papers to the 
effect that " Miss Kingsley, having crossed the continent 
of Africa, ascended the Niger to Victoria, and then 
climbed the Peak of Cameroon ; she is shortly to return 
to England, when she will deliver a series of lectures on 
French art, which she has had great opportunities of 
studying." Well, thanks to Mr. Macmillan's kindness, I 
did publish a sort of interim report, called Travels in 
West Africa. It did not work out in the way he prophe- 
sied. It has led to my being referred to as " an intrepid 
explorer," a thing there is not the making of in me, who 
am ever the prey of frights, worries and alarms ; and its 
main effect, as far as I am personally concerned, has 
been to plunge me further still in debt for kindness from 
my fellow creatures, who, though capable of doing all I 
have done and more capable of writing about it in really 
good English, have tolerated that book and frequently 
me also, with half-a-dozen colds in my head and a dingy 
temper. Chief among all these creditors of mine I must 

1 The introductory paragraphs referred to the Appendices 
omitted in the present edition. 


name Mrs. J. R. Green, Mrs. George Macmillan and Miss 
Lucy Toulmin Smith ; but don't imagine that they or any 
other of my creditors approve of any single solitary 
opinion I express, or the way in which I express it. It 
is merely that I have the power of bringing out in my 
fellow-creatures, white or black, their virtues, in a way 
honourable to them and fortunate for me. 

I must here also acknowledge the great debt of grati- 
tude I owe to Mr. John Holt, of Liverpool. A part of my 
work lies in the affairs of the so-called Bubies of 
Fernando Po, and no one knows so much about Fer- 
nando Po as Mr. Holt. He has also been of the greatest 
help to me in other ethnological questions, and has 
permitted me to go through his collections of African 
things most generously. It is, however, idle for me to 
attempt to chronicle my debt to Mr. Holt, for in every 
part of my work I owe him much. I do not wish you 
to think he is responsible for any of it, but his counsels 
have ever been on the side of moderation and generosity 
in adverse criticism. I honestly confess I believe I am 
by nature the very mildest of critics ; but Mr. Holt and 
others think otherwise ; and so, although I have not 
altered my opinions, I have refrained from publishing 
several developments of them, in deference to superior 

I am also under a debt of gratitude to Professor 
Tylor. He also is not involved in my opinions, but he 
kindly permits me to tell him things that I can only 
" tell Tylor " ; and now and again, as you will see in the 
Fetish question, he comes down on me with a refreshing 
firmness ; in fact, I feel that any attempt at fantastic 
explanations of West African culture will not receive 
any encouragement from him ; and it is a great comfort 
to a mere drudge like myself to know there is some 
one who cares for facts, without theories draping them. 

I will merely add that to all my own West Coast 
friends I remain indebted ; and that if you ever come 
across any one who says I owe them much, you may 
take it as a rule that I do, though in all my written 
stuff I have most carefully ticketed its source. 


I now turn to the explanation and apology for this 
book, briefly. Apology for its literary style I do not 
make. I am not a literary man, only a student of West 
Africa. I am not proud of my imperfections in English. 
I would write better if I could, but I cannot I find 
when I try to write like other people that I do not say 
what seems to me true, and thereby lose all right to say 
anything ; and I am more convinced, the more I know 
of West Africa — my education is continuous and un- 
broken by holidays — that it is a difficult thing to write 
about, particularly when you are a student hampered on 
all sides by masses of inchoate material, unaided by a 
set of great authors to whose opinions you can refer, and 
addressing a public that is not interested in the things 
that interest you so keenly and that you regard as so 
deeply important. 

In my previous book I most carefully confined myself 
to facts and arranged those facts on as thin a line of 
connecting opinion as possible. I was anxious to see 
what manner of opinion they would give rise to in the 
minds of the educated experts up here ; not from a 
mere feminine curiosity, but from a distrust in my own 
ability to construct theories. On the whole this method 
has worked well. Ethnologists of different theories 
have been enabled to use such facts as they saw fit ; 
but one of the greatest of ethnologists has grumbled at 
me, not for not giving a theory, but for omitting to show 
the inter-relationship of certain groups of facts, an inter- 
relationship his acuteness enabled him to know existed. 
Therefore I here give the key to a good deal of this 
inter-relationship by dividing the different classes of 
Fetishism into four schools. In order to do this I have 
now to place before you a good deal of material that 
was either crowded out of the other work or considered 
by me to require further investigation and comparison. 
As for the new statements I make, I have been enabled 
to give them this from the constant information and 
answers to questions I receive from West Africa. For 
the rest of the Fetish I remain a mere photographic 


Regarding the other sections of this book, they are to 
me all subsidiary in importance to the Fetish, but they 
belong to it. They refer to its environment, without a 
knowledge of which you cannot know the thing. What 
Mr. Macmillan has ticketed as Introductory — I could 
not find a name for it at all — has a certain bearing on 
West African affairs, as showing the life on a West 
Coast boat. I may remark it is a section crowded out 
of my previous book ; so, though you may not be glad 
to see it here, you must be glad it was not there. 

The fishing chapter was also cast out of Travels in 
West Africa. Critics whom I respect said it was wrong 
of me not to have explained how I came by my fishes. 
This made me fear that they thought I had stolen them, 
so I published the article promptly in the National 
Reviezv, and, by the kindness of its editor, Mr. Maxse, I 
reprint it. 

The chapter on Law contains all the material I have 
been so far able to arrange on this important study. 
The material on Criminal Law I must keep until I can 
go out again to West Africa, and read further in the 
minds of men in the African Forest Belt region ; for in 
them, in that region, is the original text. The connec- 
tion between Religion and Law I have not reprinted 
here, it being available, thanks to the courtesy of the 
Hibbert Trustees, in the National Review, September, 


I have left my stiffest bit of explanation and apology 
till the last, namely, that relating to the Crown Colony 
system, which is the thing that makes me beg you to 
disassociate from me every friend I have, and deal with 
me alone. I am alone responsible for it, the only 
thing for which I may be regarded as sharing the re- 
sponsibility with others being the statistics from Govern- 
ment sources. 

It has been the most difficult thing I have ever had 

to do. I would have given my right hand to have done 

it well, for I know what it means if things go on as they 

are. Alas ! I am hampered with my bad method of 

1 Included as Chapter XX. in the present edition. 


expression. I cannot show you anything clearly and 
neatly. I have to show you a series of pictures of things, 
and hope you will get from those pictures the impression 
which is the truth. I dare not set myself up to tell you 
the truth. I only say, look at it : and to the best of my 
ability faithfully give you, not an artist's picture, but 
a photograph, an overladen with detail, colourless ver- 
sion ; all the time wishing to Heaven there was some 
one else doing it who could do it better, and then I 
know you would understand, and all would be well. I 
know there are people who tax me with a brutality in 
statement, I feel unjustly ; and it makes me wonder 
what they would say if they had to speak about West 
Africa. It is a repetition of the difficulty a friend of 
mine and myself had over a steam launch called the 
Dragon Fly, whose internal health w r as chronically poor, 
and subject to bad attacks. Well, one afternoon, he 
and I had to take her out to the home-going steamer, 
and she had suffered that afternoon in the engines, 
and when she suffered anywhere she let you know it. 
We did what we could for her, in the interests of 
humanity and ourselves ; we gave her lots of oil, and fed 
her with delicately-chopped wood ; but all to but little 
avail. So both our tempers being strained when we got 
to the steamer, we told her what the other one of us had 
been saying about the Dragon Fly. The purser of the 
steamer thereon said " that people who said things like 
those about a poor inanimate steam launch were fools 
with a flaming hot future, and lost souls entirely." We 
realised that our observations had been imperfect ; and 
so, being ever desirous of improving ourselves, we offered 
to put the purser on shore in the Dragon Fly. We 
knew she was feeling still much the same, and we wanted 
to know what he would say when jets of superheated 
steam played on him. He came, and they did ; and 
when they did, you know, he said things I cannot re- 
peat. Nevertheless, things of the nature of our own 
remarks, but so much finer of the kind, that we regarded 
him with awe when he was returning thanks to the 
" poor inanimate steam launch " ; but it was when it 


came to his going ashore, gladly to leave us and her, 
that we found out what that man could say ; and we 
morally fainted at his remarks made on discovering that 
he had been sitting in a pool of smutty oil, which she had 
insidiously treated him to, in order to take some of the 
stuffing out of him about the superior snowwhiteness of 
his trousers. Well, that purser went off the scene in a 
blue flame ; and I said to my companion, " Sir! we can- 
not say things like that." " Right you are, Miss Kings- 
ley," he said sadly ; " you and I are only fit for Sunday 
school entertainments." 

It is thus with me about this Crown Colony affair. I 
know I have not risen to the height other people — my 
superiors, like the purser — would rise to, if they knew it ; 
but at the same time, I may seem to those who do not 
know it, who only know the good intentions of England, 
and who regard systems as inanimate things, to be speak- 
ing harshly. I would not have mentioned this affair at all, 
did I not clearly see that our present method of dealing 
with tropical possessions under the Crown Colony 
system was dangerous financially, and brought with it 
suffering to the native races and disgrace to English 
gentlemen, who are bound to obey and carry out orders 
given them by the system. 

Plotinus very properly said that the proper thing to do 
was to superimpose the idea upon the actual. I am not 
one of those who will ever tell you things are impossible, 
but I am particularly hopeful in this matter. England 
has an excellent idea regarding her duty to native races 
in West Africa. She has an excellent actual in the 
West African native to superimpose her idea upon. All 
that is wanted is the proper method ; and this method I 
assure you that Science, true knowledge, that which 
Spinoza termed the inward aid of God, can give you. I 
am not Science, but only one of her brick-makers, and I 
beg you to turn to her. Remember you have tried to do 
without her in African matters for 400 years, and on the 
road to civilisation and advance there you have travelled 
on a cabbage leaf. 

I have now only the pleasant duty of remarking that 


in this book I have said nothing regarding missionary 
questions. I do not think it will ever be necessary for 
me to mention those questions again except to Noncon- 
formist missionaries. I say this advisedly, because, 
though I have not one word to retract of what I have 
said, the saying of it has demonstrated to me the fearless 
honesty and the perfect chivalry in controversy of the 
Nonconformist missions in England. As they are the 
most extensively interested in West Africa, if on my 
next stay out in West Africa I find anything I regard 
as rather wrong in missionary affairs I intend to have 
it out within doors ; for I know that the Nonconformists 
will be clear-headed, and fight fair, and stick to the 


December -, 1899. 


BEFORE Miss Kingsley left England on the journey 
which ended in her death, she made arrangements for 
a popular edition of her West African Studies, to range 
with that of her earlier volume of Travels in West Africa. 
In order to reduce the bulk, and at the same time to 
make room for some later contributions, in the form of 
lectures or magazine articles, to the subjects dealt with 
in the Studies, it was agreed that the valuable 
appendices by the Comte de Cardi and Mr. John 
Harford, which enriched the original edition, should be 
omitted from the present reprint. The new matter, 
which begins at p. 377, comprises the well-known 
Hibbert Lecture on " African Law and Religion," some 
articles on " Property in West Africa," reprinted, by 
kind permission of Mr. Nicol Dunn, from the Morning 
Post, and two lectures delivered respectively at Liver- 
pool and at the Imperial Institute, one on Imperialism 
in general, and the other on " Imperialism in West 
Africa." From the Morning Post letters certain pas- 
sages have been omitted, as they are in substance 
repeated in other parts of this volume. The two lectures 
on Imperialism to some extent traverse the same ground, 
but here the repetition seemed to be justified by some 
difference in the point of view. The lecture at the 
Imperial Institute, which is included by her express 


wish, was her last public utterance, and it is commended 
to the special attention of her readers, as containing her 
most earnest and well-considered views on the racial 
problems which confront us in West Africa, and on the 
wise treatment of which, in her judgment, depends the 
success of English rule in that part of the world. 

That this subject still occupied her thoughts, even on 
her voyage out to the Cape, may be seen from the follow- 
ing remarkable letter which she addressed from the 
s.s. Moor to the native editor of a new monthly mag- 
azine, entitled The New Africa which is published at 
Monrovia, in Liberia. The letter appeared in the 
August number, two months after its writer's premature 

The Union Liner "Moor," 
In the Bay of Biscay. 
Dear Sir :— 

I have been anxious to write and thank you for the review of 
my book, West African Studies, which you published in the 
November number of the New Africa. 

I have been prevented from so doing up to now by wretched 
health, caused by repeated attacks of influenza, and by pressure 
of work. I now take the opportunity of the leisure I have on 
board ship to attempt to thank you for having so sympathetically 
understood what my views on the subject of African culture were. 
I own it is no easy matter to do this, because I do not belong to 
any well-known party in this matter and my method of expression 
is, I know, bad ; and I am therefore all the more grateful to those 
few who will take the trouble to understand what I mean. 

This subject of the relationship between European and African 
culture is one in which I am quite deeply interested. I am quite 
sure that the majority of the Anglo-Saxons are good men, and I 
am equally sure the majority of the true Negroes are good men 
— possibly the percentage of perfect angels and calm scientific 
minds in both races is less than might be desired, but that we can- 
not help. Now it seems to me a deplorable thing that the present 
state of feeling between the two races should be so strained ; and 
that unsatisfactory state, I cannot avoid thinking, arises largely 
from mutual misunderstanding. It does not seem to me to be 
unavoidable — a natural race hatred — but a thing removable by 
making the two people understand each other, and by avoiding 
rousing a hatred in either for the other by forcing them into inter- 
ference with each other's institutions. 

The great difficulty is of course how to get the people to under- 
stand each other. The white race seems to me to blame in saying 


that all the reason for its interference in Africa is the improvement 
of the native African, and then proceeding to alter African institu- 
tions without in the least understanding them ; while the African is 
to blame for not placing clearly before the Anglo-Saxon what African 
institutions really are, and so combating the false and exaggerated 
view given of them by stray travellers, missionaries and officials, 
who for their own aggrandisement exaggerate the difficulties and 
dangers with which they have to deal. It is mere human nature 
for them to do this thing, but the effect prpduced on the minds of 
our statesmen has terrible consequences. The stay-at-home 
statesmen think that Africans are all awful savages or silly 
children — people who can only be dealt with on a reformatory 
penitentiary line. This view you know is not mine, nor that of 
the very small party — the scientific ethnologists — who deal with 
Africa ; but it is the view of the statesmen and the general public 
and the mission public, in African affairs. And it will remain so 
until you who know European culture, who are educated in our 
culture, and who also know African culture, will take your place as 
true ambassadors and peacemakers between the two races and 
place before the English statesmen the true African, and destroy the 
fancy African made by exaggeration, that he has now in his mind. 
Forgive me for speaking plainly upon a very delicate point, but it 
seems to me that the leading men among the European-educated 
Africans have depended too much on the religious side of the 
question. I know that there is a general opinion among the lead- 
ing men of both races that Christianity will give the one possible 
solution to the whole problem. I fail to be able to believe this. 
I fail to believe Christianity will bring peace between the two 
races for the simple reason that though it may be possible to convert 
Africans en masse into practical Christians, it is quite impossible so 
to convert Europeans en masse. You have only got to look at the 
history of any European nation — the Dutch, the Spanish, the 
Italian and German — every one calling themselves Christians, but 
none the more for that, tolerant and peaceable. Each one of them 
is ready to take out a patent for a road to Heaven and make that 
road out of men's blood and bones and the ashes of burnt home- 
steads. Of course by doing this they are not following the true 
teaching of Jesus Christ, but that has not and will not become a 
factor in politics. So I venture to say that you who build on Christi- 
anity in this matter are not building on safe ground. You cannot 
by talking about Christianity to the Europeans save your people. 
I believe there is a thing you could appeal to more safely in this 
case of the Anglo-Saxon, particularly the English — that thing is 
honour, the honour of a gentleman. There are thousands of 
Englishmen who would not mind being told they were no Chris- 
tians to do so and so, who would mind being told they were no 
gentlemen to do so and so, and who would not do wrong if they 
knew the facts of the case ; who would not destroy native inde- 
pendence and institutions if they but knew what those things really 


were ; who would respect native law if they knew what it was, and 
who would give over sneering at the African and respect him if 
they knew him as he is really and truly, as I have known him ; and 
who, though they might say, as I do, the African is different from 

, the European, yet would say, he is a very fine fellow and we can 
be friends. Then there is another factor in this matter I wish 
you to consider carefully and let me some day know your opinion 
on, namely, the factor of nationalism. I believe that no race can, 
as a race, advance except on its own line of development, and that 
it is the duty of England, if she intends really and truly to advance 
the African on the plane of culture and make him a citizen of the 
world, to preserve the African nationalism and not destroy it ; 
but destroy it she will unless you who know it come forward 
and demonstrate that African nationalism is a good thing, and that 
it is not a welter of barbarism, cannibalism and cruelty. I have 
had to stand up alone these two years and fight for African free- 
dom and institutions, while Africans equally well and better 
educated in English culture have been talking about religious 
matters, etc., to a pack of people who do not care about Christianity 
at all. The Christian general public up here will bring little 
influence to bear on preserving Africa's institutions. The public, be 
it granted, is a powerful one, but it has been taught that all African 
native institutions are bad, and unless you preserve your institutions, 
above all your land law, you cannot, no race can, preserve your 

I should like to direct your attention to a book called Black 

'* Jamaica, by a Mr. Livingston, recently published. That book is 
much thought of just now. In it you will see it put down that 
those Africans who went as slaves to Jamaica were people of no 
culture of their own ; they were, as it were, slates or blank sheets of 
paper on which any man could write what he chose to. Well that 
is not true. Those Africans had a culture of their own — not a 
perfect one, but one that could be worked up towards perfection, 
just as European culture could be worked up. I do not say that 
if Europe does break down the nationality of Africa she will utterly 
destroy Africans or African culture, but I do say that if she does 
it, she will make the Africans a people like the Jews — a landless 
people and an unhappy people. I beg you, Sir, to do your best to 
prevent this fate falling on your noble race. I believe you can 
best do it by stating that there is an African law and an African 
culture ; that the African has institutions and a state form of his 
own. I believe if you do this thing fairly and well, that England 
at any rate will not destroy the African nationality, nor will she 
give them an African grievance, as she from ignorance not intention 
has given the Irish. If you will look up the old Irish Brehon laws, 
you will find there the same form of land law you have in Africa. 
The English have only during the past 50 years or so known that 
law. Had they known it in Elizabeth's day, we should have had no 
Irish land question. You have the chance. God is always giving 


chances of teaching men in time how to prevent a repetition of the 
Irish tragedy. I think if you will do the work it will be good 
work. Mr. Sarbah is at present the only man who has worked on 
the question in his book on Fanti Customary Law. That book 
has done a great deal, and Mr. Sarbah deserves well of his 
countrymen, who wish to be free citizens and not slaves, however 
cultured in European culture. 

Forgive this long ill-written letter. I am writing in the Bay of 
Biscay, an unrestful place for writing in. I am on my way over to 
nurse fever cases in South Africa. I may never see West Africa 
again, but if I do, I hope it will be Liberia. I assure you I shall 
always feel grateful for the invitation to come there. I know I have 
been a nuisance. I know I have spoken words in wrath about the 
educated missionary-made African, and I am glad to hear you will 
tolerate me, I who admire to get on with the utter Bushman and 
never sneer or laugh at his native form of religion, a pantheism 
which I confess is a form of my own religion. I yield to no one 
in the admiration for Jesus Christ, and I believe in the Divine 
origin, but the religion His ministers preached I have never been 
able to believe in. 

I hear my friend, Dr. Blyden, is in Liberia ; if he is, please ask 
him if he got the books I sent him to Sierra Leone, Le Bon's 
I Psychology of People and another, all right. Please give him my 
kindest regards, and ask him to write me a line saying how he is 
to Miss Kingsley, in care of the Standard Bank, Cape Town, South 
Africa, and believe me, Sir, 

Yours gratefully, 


In the editorial article in the same number, stress 
is rightly laid on " the greatness of the woman and 
the work she has done," and also, as she would 
assuredly have wished, on the fact that what she had 
done for the African he might now do for himself. " One 
of Africa's deepest needs being manifest," runs the 
article, " it is now the imperative duty of her own sons, 
having before them an example worthy of emulation, 
to re-adjust their estranged attitude to aboriginal 
institutions and life, and in the spirit, and with the 
ability and sympathy of Mary Kingsley, student, 
reformer, prophetess, preach and agitate a similar 
gospel, till the principles for which she bravely fought 
are firmly established, and the ends recognised and 

This letter and the comment upon it seem to lead 

b 2 


naturally to a brief consideration of the character and 
career of this noble Englishwoman, who has added fresh 
lustre to a name already honoured among us, and whose 
premature death is nothing less than a national mis- 

Not long after her death a friend who knew her well, 
a man qualified to speak by long experience of men 
and affairs, summed up the rare combination of over- 
flowing sympathy and intellectual grasp which consti- 
tuted at once the power and the charm of Mary 
Kingsley by saying that " she had the brain of a man 
and the heart of a woman." Speaking of her time 
in West Africa, she herself said, on one occasion, that 
she was "doing odd jobs, and trying to understand 
things." The phrase was characteristically modest, but 
here again we see how the heart which inspired the 
"jobs," which were always for some one else's benefit, 
worked deliberately in concert with the brain which was 
ever "trying to understand things." Together the two 
phrases strike the keynote of her life. 

In a delightful chapter of autobiography which in 
May, 1899, she contributed toM.A.P., she revealed how 
from her earliest childhood she had been of " an in- 
quiring mind," and how she had to a great extent lived 
" in a great amusing world of my own other people 
did not know or care about — in the books of my 
father's library." These books, as those who knew 
George Kingsley might suppose, were of the most mis- 
cellaneous description. His daughter's favourites, she 
tells us, were Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Johnson's 
Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious Pyrates, 
Bayle's Dictionary. As the child grew older such books 
as Lockyer's Solar Physics, Craik's Pursuit of Knowledge 
under Difficulties, and The English Mechanic played 
their part in developing her powers of imagination and 
reflection, and turning them to practical account. " With 
the aid of the English Mechanic',' she writes, " I became 
a handy man," and proceeds humorously to describe ex- 
periments not always crowned with success. It was, nc 
doubt, in this time of incubation that was laid the foui 


dation of that all round ability which made one feel 
that in after life there was almost nothing she could not 
do. In 1884, when Mary was in her twenty-second year, 
her parents moved to Cambridge. Here, writes a life- 
long friend, 1 " the society of cultivated men and women 
of literature and scholarship, whom she met in company 
with her father, drew her out, and the shy, original girl 
gained confidence, and was soon prized for her own sake. 
Here she continued her mathematics, studied Darwin, 
Huxley, Lubbock, and Tylor, and the great principles of 
modern science ; here she passed a few of the happiest 
years of her life, until the shadow of trouble came. 
That trouble she faced with brave courage and cheerful- 
ness. In the autumn of 1888 her mother, to whom she 
was tenderly devoted, was attacked by serious illness, 
and the daughter herself nursed her through all the 
difficulties of four anxious years." Her father's health 
also began to fail, and he died of heart disease only a 
few weeks before his wife's death. During this anxious 
period the strain upon so young a woman must have 
been severe indeed, but the previous self-prepara- 
tion stood her in good stead, and she bore it with the 
patience, the unselfishness, the unfailing calm and cheer- 
fulness which always distinguished her. Something of 
this is indicated in the most interesting memoir of her 
father which she prefixed in 1899 to the collection of 
his Notes on Sport and Travel. And her summary of 
the period in M.A.P. may fitly close this brief reference 
to her early years, and lead on to the new chapter which 
opened with the first journey to West Africa, under- 
taken shortly after the successive deaths in 1892 of her 
father and mother : — 

"It was years of work and watching and anxiety, a 
narrower life in home interests than ever, and a more 
hopelessly depressing one, for it was a long losing fight 
with death all the time. And then, when the fight was 
lost, when there were no more odd jobs any one wanted 
me to do at home, I, out of my life in books, found 
something to do that my father had cared for, something 
1 Athenczum, June 23, 1900. 


for which I had been taught German, so that I could do 
for him odd jobs in it. It was the study of early religion 
and law, and for it I had to go to West Africa, and I 
went there, proceeding on the even tenour of my way, 
doing odd jobs, and trying to understand things, 
pursuing knowledge under difficulties with unbroken 

In a recent lecture she described in rather more detail 
how West Africa came to be chosen as her special field 
of study, and it seems worth while to quote the passage 
here : — 

" Now I have said that my motive for going to West Africa was 
study ; this study was that of the native ideas and practices in 
religion and law. My reason for taking up this study was a desire 
to complete a great book my father, George Kingsley, had left at 
his death unfinished. My father had travelled far and wide and 
knew the natives of the South Sea Islands and the Red Indians of 
North America personally. Also he was a scholar in Semitic 
literature and could easily find out from books what those peoples and 
the East Indians and Chinese thought about his favourite subject. 
What the Africans thought about religion and law he could not so 
easily find out, because he had not visited western Equatorial 
Africa and because the Africans have not, like the Chinese or the 
Indians, a great written literature which you can consult. There 
are a few Europeans who have carefully studied African ideas, but 
very few. Chief among them is our own Sir A, B. Ellis and the 
German doctors Baumann, Buchholtz, Bastian, Kbhler and Habbe 
Schleiden, but these eminent men had not given attention to many 
points essential for my father's work, so I, knowing how much my 
father wished that book finished, went out after his death to 
West Africa where all authorities agreed that Africans were at 
their wildest and worst. It was no desire to get killed and eaten 
that made me go and associate with -the tribes with the worst 
reputation for cannibalism and human sacrifice ; but just because 
such tribes were the best for me to study from what they meant by 
doing such things 

" Now you will readily agree that it would have been no good 
my rushing out to West Africa and saying to the first native I met 
in a coast town, 'Why are you a cannibal ? Why do you kill people 
at funerals? Why this, that, or the other?' For naturally that 
African would have said, ' Who are you, and what business is it of 
yours ? and besides I don't do it, my next door neighbour does ; I 
am good.' That is human nature all the world over. And besides, 
to get the real African you must go away from the coast towns, and 
when you are away from the coast towns in a thoroughly wild part 


of West Africa you don't irritate the natives more than you can 
avoid. The climate is unhealthy enough without your making 
things worse by spoiling people's tempers with rude questions, 
about their religious and private affairs, particularly if you happen 
to be, as I was, alone among them, without an armed expedition. 
Recognising these things I decided to adopt the method of 
studying the native mind pursued by Habbe Schleiden, who went 
out to West Africa as a trader. He was not a success as a trader. 
That so-called ' simple child of nature,' the African, swindled that 
distinguished scientific man in his trade sadly. But he got what 
he wanted, a wonderful knowledge of the native mind and ideas, 
and I followed humbly in his footsteps, avoiding being swindled as 
much as possible by giving great attention to trade matters before 
I went in for them." 

To what good purpose she made her two journeys 
to the region which more and more absorbed her 
attention and affection, her two books, Travels in West 
Africa and the present West African Studies^ bear 
sufficient witness. When the Travels appeared, it was 
at once recognised that the writer had a story to tell 
and knew how to tell it. Her style certainly was un- 
conventional, but it had the rare faculty of holding the 
reader's interest, so fresh and natural was it, so full of 
life and humour, and yet conveying so much sound 
common sense and real wisdom. And into every sen- 
tence she wrote she had the wonderful gift of infusing 
her own personality. In the Studies which appeared 
two years later, she used, as is explained in her 
own Preface, some of the material collected in her 
first journey, but much of the book, and especially 
the striking chapters on Colonial administration, 
was the fruit of later study and reflection. For her 
mind was always at work, her sympathies always 
active, on the many problems which West Africa pre- 
sented to her, and especially on the relations between 
the native races and the Europeans who, for purposes 
of trade or otherwise, had set foot in the country. 
Indeed, Mary Kingsley's life, during the four years 
which elapsed between her last return from the West 
Coast and her departure for the Cape in the early spring 
of 1900, was one of ceaseless activity, of strenuous 
physical and intellectual labour. She lectured on her 


favourite subject from one end of the kingdom to the 
other ; to the Chambers of Commerce in Liverpool and 
Manchester, where her services to the cause of West 
African trade were recognised by formal resolutions 
after her death ; to popular audiences in other towns ; 
at public schools ; in village gatherings, and more than 
once of late to large audiences at the Imperial Institute. 
She contributed many articles and letters to magazines 
and weekly journals, and wrote numberless letters to 
merchants, ethnologists, politicians, native friends, in 
short to all whom she might hope to influence on behalf 
of her beneficent schemes for the advantage alike of her 
own countrymen and of the natives with whom they were 
called upon to deal. And yet, amid all this activity, 
constantly hampered as it was by ill-health, she could 
always find time to help with wise counsel, and with 
personal assistance and sympathy, those who were 
" anyways afflicted or distressed." This trait, which on 
her own showing she inherited from her mother, was at 
any rate eminently characteristic of her whole career, 
and tempts one to sum it up in the familiar words, she 
" went about doing good." 

And, as we know, the end of her life was of a piece 
with the rest. With characteristic modesty she denied 
that she was going out to South Africa as a nurse, 
capable as she actually was, and abundantly proved her- 
self, of fulfilling that function. She went, she said, to 
make herself useful in whatever capacity, and the second 
part of her object in life, the "trying to understand things n 
was certainly not absent from her mind on this occasion, 
as those well know who heard her speak of the causes and 
possible consequences of the war. On landing in Cape 
Town she learned that some one was wanted to help in 
nursing the Boer prisoners at Simonstown. Here was 
the very kind of " odd job " to appeal to the chivalrous 
instincts of Mary Kingsley, and she threw herself into it 
heart and soul. I have it on the authority of Dr. Carr6, 
the medical head of the Palace Hospital at Simonstown, 
who kindly wrote to me after her death, that what she 


did there was nothing less than to turn chaos into order. 
And yet in the process she made no enemies. Her 
quiet dignity, her clear, capable mind, her practical 
ability, her unfailing good humour, her tenderness and 
sympathy, won for her here, as elsewhere, not only 
respect but affection from patients and colleagues, from 
English and Dutch, from those in private and public 
station. This was abundantly evident when she herself 
fell too soon a victim to the disease with which she had 
struggled so valiantly for others. A public funeral, 
attended by all classes and nationalities, and unique 
in the experience of the Colony, was accorded to the 
simple woman who had landed in South Africa for the 
first time scarcely two months before. The Union Jack 
covered the coffin of one of the truest patriots that ever 
lived, as it was borne on a gun-carriage to the torpedo 
boat which, in accordance with her own characteristic 
wish, was to commit her mortal remains to the ocean 
she loved so well. Dr. Carre, under whose orders she 
had worked so devotedly, wrote of her as of a life-long 
friend. One of her nursing colleagues, in an outburst of 
sorrow, expressed the wish that she might have died in 
Miss Kingsley's stead. 

It is for her friends, who have lost in her not only a 
delightful companion but one who commanded alike their 
admiration and affection ; it is for her countrymen, before 
whom she held up so high a standard of national honour 
and duty ; it is for those natives of Africa whose best in- 
terests she spent herself to serve, to see to it that fitting 
honour is paid to her memory. Such was the spontaneous 
feeling which the news of her untimely death evoked 
from all these classes, as well as from those among whom 
she laid down her life. The merchants of Liverpool and 
Manchester, who knew what she had done to call attention 
to their achievements and necessities, promptly decided 
to establish in Liverpool a " Mary Kingsley " hospital for 
the treatment of tropical diseases. Others, who know 
that her careful study of West African problems had 
aroused in her a passionate desire to promote a better 


understanding between the native races and the English- 
men who come into relations with them, have decided 
that no nobler monument could be raised to her memory 
than an attempt to carry on, as far as may be, this 
beneficent work. The " National . Memorial to Mary 
Kingsley " will therefore comprise, alongside of the 
hospital, the formation of a " Mary Kingsley Society of 
West Africa," for the systematic study of native customs 
and institutions, which, it is hoped, may help to do for 
English rule in West Africa what by similar methods the 
Royal Asiatic Society has done to guide to its unequalled 
success our administration in India. As will be seen by 
those who read the contents of this volume, and especially 
the chapters now added to the former Studies, the writer's 
strong conviction was that more than half the difficulties 
which have arisen in tropical Africa might have been 
avoided by fuller knowledge of the nature and ideas of 
the inhabitants with whom we are called upon to deal. 
Her plea was for a really scientific treatment of racial 
and political problems, based on accurate observation 
and sound judgment, not on preconceived notions and 
national prejudice. The names of those who have issued 
an appeal for the " Mary Kingsley Society " are enough 
to show that these views are not visionary, but have 
the cordial support of leading colonial administrators, of 
statesmen, of men of science, of merchants, and of 
journalists. If the appeal meets with a truly national 
response the lesson of a noble life should bear fruit 
to the lasting benefit of mankind. 


December, 1900. 















xxviii CONTENTS 



























AFRICAN PROPERTY . . . . • 359 





♦imperialism 415 



* Not included in the First Edition, 






INDEX 501 

* Not included in the First Edition, and, as the MS. was sent 
home on her voyage to the Cape, probably the writer's last com- 


portrait OF mary H. KINGSLEY Frontispiece. 

SANTA CRUZ, teneriffe . . . To face page IO 





SETTE CAMMA, NOVEMBER 9, 1 888* ... „ 58 












* By permission of R. B. N. Walker, Esq. 


ST. PAUL DO LOANDA To face page 238 







A HOUSA „ 359 







Regarding a voyage on a West Coast boat, with some observations 
on the natural history of mariners never before published ; to 
which is added some description of the habits and nature of 
the ant and other insects, to the end that the new-comer be 
informed concerning these things before he lands in Afrik. 

There are some people who will tell you that the 
labour problem is the most difficult affair that Africa 
presents to the student ; others give the first place to the 
influence of civilisation on native races, or to the inter- 
action of the interests of the various white Powers on 
that continent, or to the successful sanitation of the said 
continent, or some other high-sounding thing ; but I, 
who have an acquaintance with all these matters, and 
think them well enough, as intellectual exercises, yet 
look upon them as slight compared to the problem of 
the West Coast Boat. 

Now life on board a West Coast steamer is an im- 
portant factor in West African affairs, and its influence is 
far reaching. It is, indeed, akin to what the Press is in 
England, in that it forms an immense amount of public 
opinion. It is on board the steamer that men from one 
part of West Africa meet men from another part of 
., % B 


West Africa — parts of West Africa are different. These 
men talk things over together without explaining them, 
and the consequence is confusion in idea and the dark- 
ening of counsel from the ideas so formed being handed 
over to people at home who practically know no part of 
the West Coast whatsoever. 

I had an example of this the other day, when a lady 
said to me in an aggrieved tone, after I had been saying 
a few words on swamps, " Oh, Miss Kingsley, but I 
thought it was wrong to talk about swamps nowadays, 
and that Africa was really quite dry. I have a cousin 
who has been to Accra and he says," &c. That's the 
way the formation of an erroneous opinion on West 
Africa gets started. Many a time have I with a scientific 
interest watched those erroneous opinions coming out of 
the egg on a West Coast boat. Say, for example, a 
Gold Coaster meets on the boat a River-man. River- 
man in course of conversation, states how, " hearing a 
fillaloo in the yard one night I got up and found the 
watchman, going to sleep on the top of the ladder, had 
just lost a leg by means of one crocodile, while another 
crocodile was kicking up a deuce of a row climbing 
up the crane." Gold Coaster says, " Tell that to the 
Marines." River-man says, " Perfect fact, Sir, my place 
swarms with crocodiles. Why, once, when I was,' &c. 
&c. Anyhow it ends in a row. The Gold Coaster says, 
"Sir, I have been 7 years" (or 13 or some impressive 
number of years) " on the West Coast of Africa, Sir, and 
I have never seen a crocodile." River- man makes re- 
marks on the existence of a toxic state wherein a man 
can't see the holes in a ladder, for he knows he's seen 
hundreds of crocodiles. 

I know Gold Coasters say in a trying way when any 
terrific account of anything comes before them, " Oh, 
that was down in the Rivers," and one knows what they 
mean. But don't you go away with the idea that a 
Gold Coaster cannot turn out a very decent tale ; indeed, 
considering the paucity of their material, they often dis- 
play the artistic spirit to a most noteworthy degree, bul 
the net result of the conversation on a West Africai 


steamboat is error. Parts of it, like the curate's egg, are 
quite excellent, but unless you have an acquaintance 
with the various regions of the Coast to which your 
various informants refer, you cannot know which is which. 
Take the above case and analyse it, and you will find it 
is almost all, on both sides, quite true. I won't go bail 
for the crocodile up the crane, but for the watchman's 
leg and the watchman being asleep on the top of the 
ladder I will, for watchmen will sleep anywhere ; and 
once when I was, &c, I myself saw certainly not less 
than 70 crocodiles at one time, let alone smelling them, 
for they do swarm in places and stink always. But on 
the other hand the Gold Coaster might have remained 
7, 13, or any other number of centuries instead of years, 
in a teetotal state, and yet have never seen a crocodile. 

It may seem a reckless thing to say, but I believe that 
the great percentage of steamboat talk is true ; only you 
must remember that it is not stuff that you can in any 
way use or rely on unless you know yourself the district 
from which the information comes, and it must, like all 
information — like all specimens of any kind — be very 
carefully ticketed, then and there, as to its giver and its 
district. In this it is again like the English Press, 
wherein you may see a statement one day that every- 
thing is quite satisfactory, say in Uganda, and in the 
next issue that there has been a massacre there or some 
unpleasantness. The two statements have in them the 
connecting thread of truth, that truth that, according to 
Fichte, is in all things. The first shows that it is the 
desire in the official mind that everything should be 
quite satisfactory to every one ; the second, that prac- 
tically this blessed state has not yet arrived — that is all. 

I need not, however, further dwell on this complex 
phase, and will turn to the high educational value of the 
West African steamboat to the young Coaster, holding 
that on the conditions under which the Coaster makes 
his first voyage out to West Africa largely depends 
whether or no he takes to the Coast. Strange as it is to 
me, who love West Africa, there are people who have 
really been there who have not even liked it in the least. 

B 2 


These people, I fancy, have not been properly brought 
up in a suitable academy as I was. 

Doubtless a P. & O. is a good preparatory school for 
India, or a Union, or Castle liner for the Cape, or an 
Empereza Naciofial simply superb for a Portuguese 
West Coast Possession, but for the Bights, especially, for 
the terrible Bight of Benin, " where for one that comes 
out there are forty stay in," I have no hesitation in re- 
commending the West Coast cargo boat. Not one of 
the best ships in the fleet, mind you ; they are well 
enough to come home in, and so on, but you must go on 
a steamer that has her saloon aft on your first trip out 
or you will never understand West Africa. 

It was on such a steamer that I made my first voyage 
out in '93, when, acting under the advice of most eminent 
men, before whose names European Science trembles, I 
resolved that the best place to study early religion and 
law, and collect fishes, was the West Coast of Africa. 

On reaching Liverpool, where I knew no one and of 
which I knew nothing in '93, I found the boat I was to 
go by was a veteran of the fleet. She had her saloon aft, 
and I am bound to say her appearance was anything 
but reassuring to the uninitiated and alarmed young 
Coaster, depressed by the direful prophecies of deserted 
friends concerning all things West African. Dirt and 
greed were that vessel's most obvious attributes. The 
dirt rapidly disappeared, and by the time she reached 
the end of her trip out, at Loanda, she was as neat as a 
new pin, for during the voyage every inch of paint work 
was scraped and re-painted, from the red below her 
Plimsoll mark to the uttermost top of her black funnel. 
But on the day when first we met these things were yet 
to be. As for her greed, her owners had evidently then 
done all they could to satisfy her. She was heavily 
laden, her holds more full than many a better ship's ; 
but no, she was not content, she did not even pretend to 
be, and shamelessly whistled and squarked for more. 
So, evidently just to gratify her, they sent her a lighter 
laden with kegs of gunpowder, and she grunted con- 
tentedly as she saw it come alongside. But she was not 


really entirely content even then, or satisfied. I don't 
suppose, between ourselves, any South West Coast 
boat ever is, and during the whole time I was on her, 
devoted to her as I rapidly became, I saw only too 
clearly that the one thing she really cared for was cargo. 
It was the criterion by which she measured the import- 
ance, nay the very excuse for existence, of a port. If 
she is ever sold to other owners and sent up the Medi- 
terranean, she will anathematise Malta and scorn Naples. 
"What! no palm oil! "she'll say; " no rubber? Call 
yourself a port ! " and tie her whistle string to a stanchion 
until the authorities bring off her papers and let her clear 
away. Every one on board her she infected with a com- 
mercial spirit. I am not by nature a commercial man 
myself, yet under her influence I found myself selling 
paraffin oil in cases in the Bights : and even to mis- 
sionaries and Government officials travelling on her in 
between ports, she suggested the advisability of having 
out churches, houses, &c, in sections carefully marked 
with her name. 

As we ran down the Irish Channel and into the Bay 
of Biscay, the weather was what the mariners termed 
" a bit fresh." Our craft was evidently a wet ship, either 
because she was nervous and femininely flurried when 
she saw a large wave coming, or, as I am myself inclined 
to believe, because of her insatiable mania for shipping 
cargo. Anyhow, she habitually sat down in the rise of 
those waves, whereby, from whatever motive, she man- 
aged to ship a good deal of the Atlantic Ocean in 
various sized sections. 

Her saloon, as aforesaid, was aft, and I observed it 
was the duty, in order to keep it dry, of any one near 
the main door who might notice a ton or so of the fourth 
element coming aboard, to seize up three cocoa-fibre 
mats, shut three cabin doors and yell " Bill ! " After 
doing this they were seemingly at full liberty to retire 
into the saloon and dam the Atlantic Ocean, and remark, 
" It's a dog's life at sea." I never noticed " Bill " come 
in answer to this performance, so I was getting to regard 
"Bill "as an invocation to a weather Ju Ju ; but this 


was hasty, for one night in the Bay I was roused by a 
new noise, and on going into the saloon to see what it 
was, found the stewardess similarly engaged ; mutually 
we discovered, in the dim light — she wasn't the boat to 
go and throw away money on electric — that it was the 
piano adrift off its date, and we steered for it. Very 
cleverly we fielded en route a palm in pot complete, but 
shipped some beer and Worcester sauce bottles that 
came at us from the rack over the table, whereby we got 
a bit messy and sticky about the hair and a trifle cut ; 
nevertheless, undaunted we held our course and seized 
the instrument, instinctively shouting " Bill," and " Bill " 
came, in the form of a sandy-haired steward, amiable in 
nature and striking in costume. 

After the first three or four days, a calm despair re- 
garding the fate of my various lost belongings and 
myself having come on me, and the weather having 
moderated, I began to make observations on what 
manner of men my fellow-passengers were. I found 
only two species of the genus Coaster, the Government 
official and the trading Agent, were represented ; so far 
we had no missionaries. I decided to observe those 
species we had quietly, having heard awful accounts of 
them before leaving England, but to reserve final judg- 
ment on them until they had quite recovered from sea- 
sickness and had had a night ashore. Some of the 
Agents soon revived sufficiently to give copious informa- 
tion on the dangers and mortality of West Africa to 
those on board who were going down Coast for the first 
time, and the captain and doctor chipped in ever and 
anon with a particularly convincing tale of horror in 
support of their statements. This used to be the sort 
of thing. One of the Agents would look at the Captain 
during a meal-time, and say, " You remember J., 
Captain ? " " Knew him well," says the Captain ; " why 
I brought him out his last time, poor chap ! " then 
follows full details of the pegging-out of J., and his 
funeral, &c. Then a Government official who had been 
out before, would kindly turn to a colleague out for the 
first time, and say, " Brought any dress clothes with 


you ? " The unfortunate new-comer, scenting an allu- 
sion to a more cheerful phase of Coast life, gladly answers 
in the affirmative. 

" That's right," says the interlocutor ; " you want 
them to wear at funerals. Do you know," he remarks, 
turning to another old Coaster, " my dress trousers did 
not get mouldy once last wet season." 

" Get along," says his friend, " you can't hang a thing 
up twenty-four hours without its being fit to graze a 
cow on." 

" Do you get anything else but fever down there ? " 
asks a new-comer, nervously. 

" Haven't time as a general rule, but I have known 
some fellows get kraw kraw." 

" And the Portuguese itch, abscesses, ulcers, the 
Guinea worm and the smallpox," observe the chorus 

" Well," says the first answerer, kindly but regretfully, 
as if it pained him to admit this wealth of disease was 
denied his particular locality ; " they are mostly on the 
South West Coast." And then a gentleman says para- 
sites are, as far as he knows, everywhere on the Coast, 
and some of them several yards long. " Do you remem- 
ber poor C. ? " says he to the Captain, who gives his 
usual answer, " Knew him well. Ah ! poor chap, there 
was quite a quantity of him eaten away, inside and out, 
with parasites, and a quieter, better living man than C. 
there never was." " Never," says the chorus, sweeping 
away the hope that by taking care you may keep clear 
of such things — the new Coaster's great hope. " Where 
do you call — ? " says a young victim consigned to that 
port. Some say it is on the South-west, but opinions 
differ, still the victim is left assured that it is just about 
the best place on the seaboard of the continent for a 
man to go to who wants to make himself into a sort of 
complete hospital course for a set. of medical students. 

This instruction of the young in the charms of Coast 
life is the faithfully discharged mission of the old 
Coasters on steamboats, especially, as aforesaid, at meal 
times. Desperate victims sometimes determine to keep 


the conversation off fever, but to no avail. It is in the 
air you breath, mentally and physically ; one will men- 
tion a lively and amusing work, some one cuts in and 
observes " Poor D. was found dead in bed at C. with 
that book alongside him." With all subjects it is the 
same. Keep clear of it in conversation, for even a half 
hour, you cannot. Far better is it for the young Coaster 
not to try, but just to collect all the anecdotes and in- 
formation you can referring to it, and then lie low for a 
new Coaster of your own to tell them to; and when your 
own turn comes, as come it will if you haunt the West 
Coast long enough, to peg out and be poor so and so 
yourself. For goodness sake die somewhere where they 
haven't got the cemetery on a hill, because going up a 
hill in shirt collars, &c, will cause your mourners to peg 
out too, at least this is the lesson I was taught in that 
excellent West Coast school. 

When, however, there is no new Coaster to instruct 
on hand, or he is tired for ten minutes of doing it, the 
old Coaster discourses with his fellow old Coasters on 
trade products and insects. Every attention should be 
given to him on these points. On trade products I will 
discourse elsewhere ; but insects it is well that the new 
comer should know about before he sets foot on Africa. 
On some West Coast boats excellent training is afforded 
by the supply of cockroaches on board, and there is 
nothing like getting used to cockroaches early when 
your life is going to be spent on the Coast — but I need 
not detain you with them now, merely remarking that 
they have none of the modest reticence of the European 
variety. They are very companionable, seeking rather 
than shunning human society, nestling in the bunk with 
you if the weather is the least chilly, and I fancy not 
averse to light ; it is true they come out most at night, 
but then they distinctly like a bright light, and you can 
watch them in a tight packed circle round the lamp 
with their heads towards it, twirling their antennae at it 
with evident satisfaction ; in fact it's the lively nights 
those cockroaches have that keep them abed during the 
day. They are sometimes of great magnitude ; I have 


been assured by observers of them in factories ashore 
and on moored hulks that they can stand on their hind 
legs and drink out of a quart jug, but the most common 
steamer kind is smaller, as far as my own observations go. 
But what I do object to in them is, that they fly and 
feed on your hair and nails and disturb your sleep by 
so doing ; and you mayn't smash them — they make an 
awful mess on the deck if you do. As for insect powder, 
well, I'd like to see the insect powder that would disturb 
the digestion of a West African insect. 

But it's against the insects ashore that you have to be 
specially warned. During my first few weeks of Africa 
I took a general, natural historical interest in them with 
enthusiasm as of natural history ; it soon became a mere 
sporting one, though equally enthusiastic at first. After- 
wards a nearly complete indifference set in, unless some 
wretch aroused a vengeful spirit in me by stinging or 
biting. I should say, looking back calmly upon the 
matter, that 75 per cent, of West African insects sting, 
5 per cent, bite, and the rest are either permanently or 
temporarily parasitic on the human race. And un- 
doubtedly one of the many worst things you can do in 
West Africa is to take any notice of an insect. If you 
see a thing that looks like a cross between a flying lob- 
ster and the figure of Abraxas on a Gnostic gem, do not 
pay it the least attention, never mind where it is ; just 
keep quiet and hope it will go away — for that's your 
best chance ; you have none in a stand-up fight with a 
good thorough-going African insect. Well do I remem- 
ber, at Cabinda, the way insects used to come in round 
the hanging lamp at dinner time. Mosquitoes were 
pretty bad there, not so bad as in some other places, but 
sufficient, and after them hawking came a cloud of 
dragon-flies, swishing in front of every one's face, which 
was worrying till you got used to it. Ever and anon 
a big beetle with a terrific boom on would sweep 
in, go two or three times round the room and then flop 
into the soup plate, out of that, shake himself like a re- 
triever and bang into some one's face, then flop on the 
floor. Orders were then calmly but firmly given to the 


steward boys to " catch 'em " ; down on the floor went 
the boys, and an exciting hunt took place which some- 
times ended in the capture of the offender, but always 
seemed to irritate a previously quiet insect population, 
who forthwith declared war on the human species, and 
fastened on to the nearest leg. It is best, as I have 
said, to leave insects alone. Of course you cannot 
ignore Driver ants, they won't go away, but the same 
principle reversed is best for them, namely, your going 
away yourself. 

One way and another we talked a good deal of insects 

as well as fever on the , but she herself was fairly free 

from these until she got a chance of shipping ; then, of 
course, she did her best — with the flea line at Canary, 
mixed assortment at Sierra Leone, scorpions and centi- 
pedes in the Timber ports, heavy cargo of the beetle and 
mangrove-fly line, with mosquitoes for dunnage, in the 
Oil Rivers ; it was not till she reached Congo — but of 
that anon. 

We duly reached Canary. This port I had been to 
the previous year on a Castle liner, having, in those re- 
mote and dark ages, been taught to believe that Liver- 
pool boats were to be avoided ; I was, so far, in a state 
of mere transition of opinion from this view to the one 
I at present hold, namely, that Liverpool West African 
Boats are quite the most perfect things in their way, and, 
at any rate, good enough for me. 

I need not discourse on the Grand Canary ; there are 
many better descriptions of that lovely island, and like- 
wise of its sister, Teneriffe, than I could give you. I 
could, indeed, give you an account of these islands, par- 
ticularly " when a West Coast boat is in from South," 
that would show another side of the island life ; but I 
forbear, because it would, perhaps, cause you to think 
ill of the West Coaster unjustly ; for the West Coaster, 
when he lands on the island of the Grand Canary home- 
ward bound, and realises he has a good reasonable 
chance to see his home and England again, is not in a 
normal state, and prone to fall under the influence of 
excitement, and display emotions that he would not 

■,- /: 

•c mm ^asp«S@w^; 


B1 1 

[7V face tage 10. 

Santa Cruz, Teneriffe. 


dream of either on the West Coast itself or in England. 
Indeed, it is not too much to say that on the Canary 
Islands a good deal of the erroneous prejudice against 
West Africa is formed ; but this is not the place to go 
into details on the subject. 

It was not until we left Canary that my fellow pas- 
sengers on the realised that I was going to " the 

Coast." They had most civilly bidden me good-bye 
when they were ashore on the morning of our arrival at 
Las Palmas ; and they were surprised at my presence 
on board at dinner, as attentive to their conversation as 
ever. They explained that they had regarded me at 
first as a lady missionary, until my failure, during a 
Sunday service in the Bay of Biscay, to rescue it from the 
dire confusion into which it had been thrown by an 
esteemed and able officer and a dutiful but inexperienced 
Purser, caused them to regard me as only a very early 
visitor to Canary. Now they required explanation. I 
said I was interested in Natural History. " Botany," 
they said. " They had known some men who had come 
out from Kew but they were all dead now." 

I denied a connection with Kew, and in order to give 
an air of definiteness to my intentions, remembering I 
had been instructed that " one of the worst things you 
can do in West Africa is to be indefinite," I said I was 
interested in the South Antarctic Drift — I was in those 

They promptly fell into the pit of error that this was 
a gold mine speculation, and said they had " never heard 
of such a mine." I attempted to extricate them from 
this idea, and succeeded, except with a deaf gentleman 
who kept on sweeping into the conversation with yarns 
and opinions on gold mines in West Africa, and the 
awful mortality among people who attended to such 
things, which naturally led to a prolonged discussion, 
ending in a general resolution that people who had 
anything to do with gold mines generally died rather 
quicker even than men from Kew. Indeed, it took me 
days to get myself explained, and when it was accom- 
plished I found I had nearly got myself regarded as a 


lunatic to go to West Africa for such reasons. But 
fortunately for me, and for many others who have ven- 
tured into their kingdom, the West African merchants 
are good-hearted, hospitable English gentlemen, who 
seem to feel it their duty that no harm they can prevent 
should happen to any one ; and my first friends, among 

them my fellow passengers on the , failing in 

inducing me to return from Sierra Leone, which they 
strongly advised, did their best to save me by means of 
education. The things they thought I <: really ought to 
know "would make wild reading if published in extenso. 
Led by the kindest and most helpful of captains, they 
poured in information, and I acquired a taste for " facts " 
— any sort of facts about anything — a taste when applied 
to West African facts, that I fancy ranks with that for 
collecting venomous serpents ; but to my listening to 
everything that was told me by my first instructors, and 
believing in it, undoubtedly I have often owed my life, 
and countless times have been enabled to steer neatly 
through shoaly circumstances ashore. 

Our captain was not a man who would deliberately 
alarm a new-comer, or shock any one, particularly a 
lady ; indeed, he deliberately attempted to avoid so 
doing. He held it wrong to dwell on the dark side of 
Coast life, he said, "because youngsters going out were 
frequently so frightened on board the boats that they 
died as soon as they got on shore of the first cold they 
got in the head, thinking it was Yellow Jack " ; so he 
always started conversation at meal times with anecdotes 
of his early years on an ancestral ranch in America. 
One great charm about " facts " is that you never know 
but what they may come in useful ; so I eagerly got up 
a quantity of very strange information on the conduct of 
the American cow. He would then wander away 
among the China Seas or the Indian Ocean, and I could 
pass an examination on the social habits of captains of 
sailing vessels that ran to Bombay in old days. Some- 
times the discourse visited the South American ports, 
and I took on information that will come in very handy 
should I ever find myself wandering about the streets of 


Callao after dark, searching for a tavern. But the turn 
that serious conversation always drifted into was the 
one that interested me most, that relating to the Coast. 
Particularly interesting were those tales of the old times 
and the men who first established the palm-oil trade. 

They were, many of them, men who had been engaged 
in the slave trade, and on the suppression thereof they 
turned their attention to palm oil, to which end their 
knowledge of the locality and of the native chiefs and 
their commercial methods was of the greatest help. 
Their ideas were possibly not those at present in 
fashion, but the courage and enterprise those men 
displayed under the most depressing and deadly 
conditions made me proud of being a woman of the 
nation that turned out the " Palm-oil ruffians " — Drake, 
Hawkins, the two Roberts, Frobisher and Hudson — it is 
as good as being born a foreign gentleman. 

There was one of these old Coasters of the palm oil 
ruffian type who especially interested me. He is dead 
now. For the matter of that he died at a mature age 
the year I was born, and I am in hopes of collecting 
facts sufficient to enable me to publish his complete 
biography. He lived up a creek, threw boots at leo- 
pards, and " had really swell spittoons, you know, shaped 
like puncheons, and bound with brass." I am sure it is 
unnecessary for me to mention his name. 

Two of the old Coasters never spoke unless they had 
something useful and improving to say. They were 
Scotch ; indeed, most of us were that trip, and I often 
used to wonder if the South Atlantic Ocean were broad 
enough for the accent of the " a," or whether strange 
sounds would ever worry and alarm Central America 
and the Brazils. For general social purposes these 
silent ones used coughs, and the one whose seat was 
always next to mine at table kept me in a state of much 
anxiety, for I used to turn round, after having been 
riveted to the captain's conversation for minutes, and 
find him holding some dish for me to help myself from ; 
he never took the least notice of my apologies, and I 
felt he had made up his mind that, if I did it again, he 


would take me by the scruff of my neck some night 
and drop me overboard. He was an alarmingly power- 
fully built man, and I quite understood the local African 
tribe wishing to have him for a specimen. Some short 
time before he had left for home last trip, they had at- 
tempted to acquire his head for their local Ju Ju house, 
from mixed aesthetic and religious reasons. In a way, 
it was creditable of them, I suppose, for it would have 
caused them grave domestic inconvenience to have re- 
moved thereby, at one fell swoop, their complete set of 
tradesmen ; and as a fellow collector of specimens I am 
bound to admit the soundness of their methods of col- 
lecting ! Wishing for this gentleman's head they shot 
him in the legs. I have never gone in for collecting 
specimens of hominidae but still a recital of the incident 
did not fire me with a desire to repeat their performance ; 
indeed, so discouraged was I by their failure that I 
hesitated about asking him for his skeleton when he 
had quite done with it, though it was gall and worm- 
wood to think of a really fine thing like that falling into 
the hands of another collector. 

The run from Canary to Sierra Leone takes about a 
week. That part of it which lies in the track of the 
N.E. Trade Winds, i.e., from Canary to Cape Verde, 
makes you believe Mr. Kipling when he sang — 

" There are many ways to take 
Of the eagle and the snake, 
And the way of a man with a maid ; 
But the sweetest way for me 
Is a ship upon the sea 
On the track of the North-East trade." 

was displaying, gracefully, a sensible choice of things ; 
but you only feel this outward bound to the West 
Coast. When you come up from the Coast, fever 
stricken, homeward bound, you think otherwise. I do 
not mean to say that owing to a disintegrating moral 
effect of West Africa you wish to pursue the other ways 
mentioned in the stanza, but you do wish the Powers 
above would send that wind to the Powers below and 


get it warmed. Alas ! it is in this Trade Wind zone 
that most men die, coming up from the Coast sick with 
fever, and it is to the blame of the Trade Wind that you 
see obituary notices — "of fever after leaving Sierra 
Leone." Nevertheless, outward bound the thing is 
delightful, and dreadfully you feel its loss when you 
have run through it as you close in to the African land 
by Cape Verde. At any rate I did ; and I began to 
believe every bad thing I had ever heard of West Africa, 
and straightway said to myself, what every man has said 
to himself who has gone there since Hanno of Carthage, 
" Why was I such a fool as to come to such an awful 
place ? " It is the first meeting with the hot breath of 
the Bights that tries one ; it is the breath of Death him- 
self to many. You feel when first you meet it you have 
done with all else ; not alone is it hot, but it smells — 
smells like nothing else. It does not smell all it can 
then ; by and by, down in the Rivers, you get its per- 
fection, but off Cape Verde you have to ask yourself, 
" Can I live in this or no ? " and you have to leave it, 
like all other such questions, to Allah, and go on. 

We passed close in to Cape Verde, which consists of 
rounded hills having steep bases to the sea. From these 
bases runs out a low, long strip of sandy soil, which is 
the true cape. Beyond, under water, runs out the 
dangerous Almadia reef, on which were still, in '93, to 
be seen the remains of the Port Douglas, who was 
wrecked there on her way to Australia in '92. Her pas- 
sengers were got ashore and most kindly treated by the 
French officers of Senegal ; and finally, to the great joy 
and relief of their rescuers, the said passengers were 
fetched away by an English vessel, and taken to what 
England said was their destination and home, Australia, 
but what France regarded as merely a stage on their 
journey to Hell, to which port they had plainly been 

It was just south of Cape Verde that I met my first 
tornado. The weather had been wet in violent showers 
all the morning and afternoon. Our old Coasters took 
but little notice of it, resigning themselves to saturation 


without a struggle, previous experience having taught 
them it was the best thing to do, dryness being an un- 
attainable state during the wet season, and "worrying 
one's self about anything one of the worst things you 
can do in West Africa." So they sat on deck calmly 
smoking, their new flannel suits, which were donned 
after leaving the trade winds, shrinking, and their 
colours running on to the other deck, uncriticised even 
by the first officer. He was charging about shotting 
directions and generally making that afternoon such a 
wild, hurrying fuss about " getting in awnings," " tricing 
up all loose gear," such as deck chairs, and so on, to 

permanent parts of the , that, as nothing beyond 

showers had happened, and there was no wind, I began 
to feel most anxious about his mental state. But I soon 
saw that this activity was the working of a practical 
prophetic spirit in the man, and these alarms and excur- 
sions of his arose from a knowledge of what that low, 
arch of black cloud coming off the land meant. 

We were surrounded by a wild, strange sky. Indeed 
there seemed to be two skies, one upper, and one lower ; 
for parts of it were showing evidences of terrific activity, 
others of a sublime, utterly indifferent calm. At one 
part of our horizon were great columns of black cloud, 
expanding and coalescing at their capitals. These were 
mounted on a background of most exquisite pale green. 
Away to leeward was a gigantic black cloud-mountain, 
across whose vast face were bands and wreaths of deli- 
cate white and silver clouds, and from whose grim depths 
every few seconds flashed palpitating, fitful, livid light- 
nings. Striding towards us across the sea came the 
tornado, lashing it into spray mist with the tremendous 
artillery of its rain, and shaking the air with its own 
thunder-growls. Away to windward leisurely boomed 
and grumbled a third thunderstorm, apparently not 
addressing the tornado but the cloud-mountain, while in 
between these phenomena wandered strange, wild winds, 
made out of lost souls frightened and wailing to be let 
back into Hell, or taken care of somehow by some one. 
This sort of thing naturally excited the sea, and all 


together excited the , who, not being built so much 

for the open and deep sea as for the shoal bars of West 
African rivers, made the most of it. 

In a few seconds the wind of the tornado struck us, 
screaming through the rigging, eager for awnings or any 
loose gear, but foiled of its prey by the first officer, who 
stood triumphantly on a heap of them, like a defiant hen 
guarding her chickens. 

Some one really ought to write a monograph on the 
natural history of mariners. They are valuable beings, 
and their habits are exceedingly interesting. I myself, 
being already engaged in the study of other organisms, 
cannot undertake the work ; however, I place my obser- 
vations at the disposal of any fellow naturalist who may 
have more time, and certainly will have more ability. 

The sailor officer (Nauta pelagius vel officinalis) is 
metamorphic. The stage at which the specimen you 
may be observing has arrived is easily determined by 
the band of galoon round his coat cuff; in the English 
form the number of gold stripes increasing in direct 
ratio with rank. The galoon markings of the foreign 
species are frequently merely decorative, and in many 
foreign varieties only conditioned by the extent of sur- 
face available to display them and the ability of the 
individual to acquire the galoon wherewith to decorate 

The English third officer, you will find, has one stripe, 
the second two, the first three, and the imago, or captain, 
four, the upper one having a triumphant twist at the top. 

You may observe, perhaps, about the ship sub-varieties, 
having a red velvet, or a white or blue velvet band on 
the coat cuff; these are respectively the Doctor, Purser, 
and chief engineer ; but with these sub-varieties I will 
not deal now, they are not essentially marine organisms, 
but akin to the amphibia. 

The metamorphosis is as clearly marked in the in- 
dividual as in the physical characteristics. A third 
officer is a hard-working individual who has to do any 
thing that the other officers do not feel inclined to, and 
therefore rarely has time to wash. He in course of time 



becomes second officer, and the slave of the hatch. 
During this period of his metamorphosis he feels no 
compunction whatever in hauling out and dumping 
on the deck burst bacon barrels or leaking lime casks, 
actions which, when he reaches the next stage of deve- 
lopment, he will regard as undistinguishable in a moral 
point of view from a compound commission of the seven 
deadly sins. For the deck, be it known, is to the first 
officer the most important thing in the cosmogony, and 
there is probably nothing he would not sacrifice to its 
complexion. One that I had the pleasure of knowing once 
lamented to me that he was not allowed by his then 
owners to spread a layer of ripe pineapples upon his 
precious idol, and let them be well trampled in and then 
lie a few hours, for this he assured me gave a most satis- 
factory bloom to a deck's complexion. Yet when this 
same man becomes a captain and grows another stripe 
round his cuffs, he no longer takes an active part in the 
ship's household affairs, that is his first officer's business, 
the ship's husband's affair; and should he have an 
inefficient First the captain expects men and nations 
to sympathise with him, just as a lady expects to be 
sympathised with over a bad housemaid. 

There are, however, two habits which are constant to 
all the species through each stage of transformation from 
roust-about to captain. One is a love of painting. I 
have never known an officer or captain who could pass a 
paint-pot, with the brush sticking temptingly out, with- 
out emotion. While, as for Jack, the happiest hours he 
knows seemingly are those he spends sitting on a slung 
plank over the side of his ocean home, with his bare feet 
dangling a few feet above the water as tempting bait for 
sharks, and the tropical sun blazing down on him and 
reflected back at him from the iron ship's side and from 
the oily ocean beneath. Then he carols forth his amor- 
ous lay, and shouts, " Bill, pass that paint-pot " in his 
jolliest tones. It is very rarely that a black seaman 
treated to a paint-pot ; all they are allowed to do is t( 
knock off the old stuff, which they do in the nerveles 
way the African does most handicraft. The greates 


dissipation of the black hands department consists in 
being allowed to knock the old stuff off the steam-pipe 
covers, donkey, and funnel. This is a delicious occupa- 
tion, because, firstly, you can usually sit while doing it, 
and secondly, you can make a deafening din and sing 
to it - 

The other habit and the more widely known is the 
animistic view your seaman takes of Nature. Every 
article that is to a landsman an article and nothing 
more, is to him an individual with a will and mind of 
his own. I myself believe there is something in it. I 

feel sure that a certain hawser on board the had a 

weird influence on the minds of all men who associated 
with it. It was used at Liverpool coming out of dock, 
but owing to the absence of harbours on the Coast it 
was not required again until it tied our ocean liner up 
to a tree stump at Boma, on the Congo. Nevertheless 
it didn't suit that hawser's views to be down below in 
the run and see nothing of life. It insisted on remaining 
on deck, and the officers gave in to it and said, " Well, 
perhaps it was better so, it would rot if it went down 
below," so some days it abode on the quarter-deck, some 
days on the main, and now and again it would conde- 
scend to lie on the fo'castle head in the sun. It had too 
its varying moods of tidiness, now neat and dandy coiled, 
now dishevelled and slummocky after association with 
the Kruboys. 

It is almost unnecessary to remark that the relation- 
ship between the first officer and the chief engineer is 
rarely amicable. I certainly did once hear a first 
officer pray especially for a chief engineer all to himself 
under his breath at a Sunday service ; but I do not feel 
certain that this was a display of true affection. I am 
bound to admit that " the engineer is messy," which is 
magnanimous of me, because I had almost always a row 
of some kind on with the first officer, owing to other 
people upsetting my ink on his deck, whereas I have 
never fallen out with an engineer — on the contrary, two 
chief engineers are amongst the most valued friends 
I possess. 

C 2 


The worst of it is that no amount of experience will 
drive it into the head of the first officer that the en- 
gineer will want coal — particularly and exactly when 
the ship has just been thoroughly scrubbed and painted 
to go into port. I have not been at sea so long as many 
officers, yet I know that you might as well try and get 
a confirmed dipsomaniac past a grog shop as the en- 
gineer past, say the Canary Coaling Company ; indeed 
he seems to smell the Dakar coal, and hankers after it 
when passing it miles out to sea. Then, again, if the 
engineer is allowed to have a coal deposit in the forehold 
it is a fresh blow and grief to the first officer to find he 
likes to take them as Mrs. Gamp did her stimulant, 
when she " feels dispoged," whether the deck has just 
been washed down or no. 

The cook, although he always has a blood feud on 
with the engineer concerning coals for the galley fire, 
which should endear him to the first officer, is morally 
a greater trial to the first than he is to his other 
victims. You see the cook has a grease tub, and what 
that means to the deck in a high sea is too painful to 
describe. So I leave the first officer with his pathetic 
and powerful appeals to the immortal gods to be told 
why it is his fate to be condemned to this " dog's life on 
a floating Hanwell lunatic asylum," commending him to 
the sympathetic consideration of all good housewives, 
for only they can understand what that dear good man 
goes through. 

After we passed Cape Verde we ran into the West 
African wet season rain sheet. There ought to be some 
other word than rain for that sort of thing. We have to 
stiffen this poor substantive up with adjectives, even for 
use with our own thunderstorms, and as is the morning 
dew to our heaviest thunder " torrential downpour of 
rain," so is that to the rain of the wet season in West 
Africa. For weeks it came down on us that voyage in 
one swishing, rushing cataract of water. The inter- 
spaces between the pipes of water — for it did not go into 
details with drops — were filled with gray mist, and as 
this rain struck the sea it kicked up such a water dust 


that you saw not the surface of the sea round you, but 
only a mist sea gliding by. It seemed as though we 
had left the clear cut world and entered into a mist 
universe. Sky, air, and sea were all the same, as our 
vessel swept on in one plane, just because she cap- 
riciously preferred it. Many days we could not see 
twenty yards from the ship. Once or twice another 
vessel would come out of the mist ahead, slogging past 
us into the mist behind, visible in our little water world 
for a few minutes only as a misty thing, and then we 
leisurely tramped on alone " o'er the viewless, hueless 
deep," with our horizon alongside. 

If you cleared your mind of all prejudice the thing 
was really not uncomfortable, and it seemed restful to 
the mind. As I used to be sitting on deck every one 
who came across me would say, " Wet, isn't it ? Well, 
you see this is the wet season on the Coast" — or, 
" Damp, isn't it ? Well, you see this is the Wet season 
on the Coast " — and then they went away, and, I believe 
slept for hours exhausted by their educational efforts. 
After this they would come on deck and sit in their 
respective chairs, smoking, save that irrepressible deaf 
gentleman, who spent his time squirrel-like between 
vivid activity and complete quiescence. You might pass 
the smoking room door and observe the soles of his 
shoes sticking out off the end of the settee with an air 
of perfect restful calm hovering over them, as if the 
owner were hibernating for the next six months. 
Within two minutes after this an uproar on the poop 
would inform the experienced ear that he was up and 
about again, and had found some one asleep on a chair 
and attacked him. 

It was during one of these days, furnishing reminis- 
cences of Noah's flood, that conversation turned suddenly 
on Driver ants. One of the silent men, who had been 
sitting for an hour or so with a countenance indicative 
of a contemplative acceptance of the penitential psalms, 
roused by one of the deaf man's rows, observed, 
" Paraffin is good for Driver ants." " Oh," said the deaf 
gentleman as he sat suddenly down on my ink-pot, 


which, for my convenience, was on a chair, " you wait till 
you get them up your legs, or sit down among them as 
I saw Smith, when he was tired clearing bush. They 
took the tire out of him, he live for scratch one time. 
Smith was a pocket circus. You should have seen him 
get clear of his divided skirt. Oh lor ! what price 
paraffin ? " 

The conversation on the Driver ant now became 
general. As far as I remember, Mr. Burnand, who in 
Happy Tlioiights and My Health, gave much information, 
curious and interesting, on earwigs and wasps, omitted 
this interesting insect. So, perhaps, a precis of the 
information I obtained may be interesting. I learnt 
that the only thing to do when you have got them on 
you is to adopt the course of action pursued by Brer 
Fox on that occasion when he was left to himself 
enough to go and buy ointment from Brer Rabbit, 
namely, make " a burst for the creek," water being the 
quickest thing to make them leave go. Unfortunately, 
the first time I had occasion to apply this short and 
easy method with the ant was when I was strolling 
about by Bell-Town with a white gentleman and his 
wife, and we strolled into Drivers. There were only two 
water-barrels in the vicinity, and my companions, being 
more active than myself, occupied them. 

While in West Africa you should always keep an eye 
lifting for Drivers. You can start doing it as soon as 
you land, which will postpone the catastrophe, not avoid 
it ; for the song of the West Coaster to his enemy is 
truly, " Some day, some day, some day I shall meet you ; 
Love, I know not when nor how." Perhaps, therefore, 
this being so, and watchfulness a strain when done 
deliberately, and worrying one of the worst things you 
can do in West Africa, it may be just as well for you to 
let things slide down the time-stream until Fate sends a 
column of the wretches up your legs. This experience 
will remain " indelibly limned on the tablets of your 
mind when a yesterday has faded from its page," or, as 
the modern school of psychologists would have it, " The 
affair will be brought to the notice of your subliminal 


consciousness, and that part of your mind will watch for 
Drivers without worrying you, and an automatic habit 
will be induced that will cause you never to let more 
than one eye roam spell-bound over the beauties of the 
African landscape ; the other will keep fixed, turned to 
the soil at your feet. 

The Driver is of the species Ponera, and is generally 
referred to the species anomma arcens. The females and 
workers of these ants are provided with stings as well as 
well devoloped jaws. They work both for all they are 
worth, driving the latter into your flesh, enthusiastically 
up to the hilt ; they then remain therein, keeping up 
irritation when you have hastily torn their owner off in 
response to a sensation that is like that of red-hot 
pincers. The full-grown worker is about half an inch 
long, and without ocelli even. Yet one of the most re- 
markable among his many crimes is that he will always 
first attack the eyes of any victim. These creatures 
seem to have no settled home ; no man has seen the 
beginning or end, as far as I know, of one of their long 
trains. As you are watching the ground you see a 
ribbon of glistening black, one portion of it lost in one 
clump of vegetation, the other in another, and on 
looking closer you see that it is an acies instituta of 
Driver ants. If you stir the column up with a stick 
they make a peculiar fizzing noise, and open out in all 
directions in search of the enemy, which you take care 
they don't find. 

These ants are sometimes also called " visiting ants," 
from their habit of calling in quantities at inconvenient 
hours on humanity. They are fond of marching at night, 
and drop in on your house usually after you have gone 
to bed. I fancy, however, they are about in the day- 
time as well, even in the brightest weather ; but it is 
certain that it is in dull, wet weather, and after dusk, 
that you come across them most on paths and open 
spaces. At other times and hours they make their way 
among the tangled ground vegetation. 

Their migrations are infinite; and they create some of 
the most brilliant sensations that occur in West Africa, 


replacing to the English exile there his lost burst water 
pipes of winter, and such-like things, while they enforce 
healthy and brisk exercise upon the African. 

I will not enter into particulars about the customary 
white man's method of receiving a visit of Drivers, those 
methods being alike ineffective and accompanied by 
dreadful language. Barricading the house with a rim of 
red hot ashes, or a river of burning paraffin, merely adds 
to the inconvenience and endangers the establishment. 

The native method with the Driver ant is different : 
one minute there will be peace in the simple African 
home, the heavy-scented hot night air broken only by 
the rhythmic snores and automatic side slaps of the 
family, accompanied outside by a chorus of cicadas and 
bull frogs. Enter the Driver — the next moment that 
night is thick with hurrying black forms, little and big, 
for the family, accompanied by rats, cockroaches, snakes, 
scorpions, centipedes, and huge spiders, animated by the 
one desire to get out of the visitors' way, fall helter- 
skelter into the street, where they are joined by the 
rest of the inhabitants of the village, for the ants when 
they once start on a village usually make a regular 
house-to-house visitation. I mixed myself up once in 
a delightful knockabout farce near Kabinda, and possibly 
made the biggest fool of myself I ever did. I was in a 
little village, and out of a hut came the owner and his 
family and all the household parasites pell mell, leaving 
the Drivers in possession ; but the mother and father of 
the family, when they recovered from this unwonted 
burst of activity, showed such a lively concern, and such 
unmistakable signs of anguish at having left something 
behind them in the hut, that I thought it must be the 
baby. Although not a family man myself, the idea of 
that innocent infant perishing in such an appalling 
manner roused me to action, and I joined the frenzied 
group, crying, " Where him live?" " In him far corner 
for floor ! " shrieked the distracted parents, and into 
that hut I charged. Too true ! There in the corner 
lay the poor little thing, a mere inert black mass, with 
hundreds of cruel Drivers already swarming upon it. 


To seize it and give it to the distracted mother was, 
as the reporter would say, "the work of an instant." 
She gave a cry of joy, and dropped it instantly into a 
water barrel, where her husband held it down with a 
hoe, chuckling contentedly. Shiver not, my friend, at 
the callousness of the Ethiopian ; that there thing 
wasn't an infant — it was a ham ! 

These ants clear a house completely of all its owner's 
afflictions in the way of vermin, killing and eating all 
they can get hold of. They will also make short work 
of any meat they come across, but don't care about flour 
or biscuits. Like their patron Mephistopheles, however, 
they do not care for carrion, nor do they destroy furniture 
or stuffs. Indeed they are typically West African, 
namely, good and bad mixed. In a few hours they leave 
the house again on their march through the Ewigkeit, 
which they enliven with criminal proceedings. Yet in 
spite of the advantage they confer on humanity, I believe 
if the matter were put to the human vote, Africa would 
decide to do without the Driver ant. Mankind has 
never been sufficiently grateful to its charwomen who, 
like these insect equivalents, do their tidying up at 
supremely inconvenient times. I remember an incident 
at one place in the Lower Congo, where I had been 
informed that " cork fever " was epidemic in a severe 
form among the white population. I was returning to 
quarters from a beetle hunt, in pouring rain ; it was, as 
it often is, " the wet season," &c, when I saw a European 
gentleman about twenty yards from his comfortable- 
looking house, seated on a chair, clad in a white cotton 
suit, umbrellaless, and with the water running off him as 
if he was in a douche bath. I had never seen a case of 
cork fever, but I had heard such marvellous and quaint 
tales of its symptoms that I thought — well, perhaps, any- 
how, I would not open up conversation. To my remorse 
he said, as I passed him, " Drivers." Inwardly apologis- 
ing, I outwardly commiserated him, and we discoursed. 
It was on this occasion that I saw a mantis, who is by 
way of being a very pretty pirate on his own account, 
surrounded by a mob of the blind hurrying Drivers who, 


I may remark, always attack like Red Indians in open 
order. That mantis perfectly well knew his danger, but 
was as cool as a cucumber, keeping quite quiet and lifting 
his legs out of the way of the blind enemies around him. 
But the chances of keeping six legs going clear, for long, 
among such brutes without any of them happening on 
one, were small, even though he only kept three on the 
ground at one time. So, being a devotee of personal 
courage, I rescued him— whereupon he bit me for my 
pains. Why didn't he fly ? How can you fly, I should 
like to know, unless you have a jumping off place ? 

Drivers are indeed dreadful. I was at one place where 
there had been a white gentleman and a birthday party 
in the evening ; he stumbled on his way home and went 
to sleep by the path side, and in the morning there was 
only a white gentleman's skeleton and clothes. 

However, I will dwell no more on them now. 
Wretches that they are, they have even in spirit pursued 
me to England, causing a critic to observe that brevi 
spatio interjecto is my only Latin, whereas the matter is 
this. 1 was once in distinguished society in West 
Africa that included other ladies. We had a distin- 
guished native gentleman, who had had an European 
education, come to tea with us. The conversation turned 
on Drivers, for one of the ladies had the previous evening 
had her house invaded by them at midnight. ^ She 
snatched up a blanket, wrapped herself round with it, 
unfortunately allowed one corner thereof to trail, where- 
by it swept up Drivers, and awful scenes followed^ Then 
our visitor gave us many reminiscences of his own, 
winding up with one wherein he observed " brevi spatio 
interjecto, ladies ; off came my breeches." After this 
we ladies all naturally used this phrase to describe rapid 

There is another ant, which is commonly called the 
red Driver, but it is quite distinct from the above-men- 
tioned black species. It is an unwholesome-looking, 
watery-red thing with long legs, and it abides among 
trees and bushes. An easy way of obtaining specimens 
of this ant is to go under a mango or other fruit tree 


and throw your cap at the fruit. You promptly get as 
many of these insects as the most ardent naturalist 
could desire, its bite being every bit as bad as that of 
the black Driver. 

These red ones build nests with the leaves of the tree 
they reside on. The leaves are stuck together with what 
looks like spiders' webs. I have seen these nests the 
size of an apple, and sent a large one to the British 
Museum, but I have been told of many larger nests 
than I have seen. These ants, unfortunately for me 
who share the taste, are particularly devoted to the fruit 
of the rubber vine, and also to that of a poisonous small- 
leaved creeping plant that bears the most disproportion- 
ately-sized spiny, viscid, yellow fruit. It is very difficult 
to come across specimens of either of these fruits that 
have not been eaten away by the red Driver. 

It is a very fascinating thing to see the strange 
devices employed by many kinds of young seedlings 
and saplings to keep off these evidently unpopular 
tenants. They chiefly consist in having a sheath of 
exceedingly slippery surface round the lower part of the 
stem, which the ants slide off when they attempt to 
climb. I used to spend hours watching these affairs. 
You would see an ant dash for one of these protected 
stems as if he were a City man and his morning train 
on the point of starting from the top of the plant stem. 
He would get up half an inch or so because of the dust 
round the bottom helping him a bit, then, getting no 
holding-ground, off he would slip, and falling on his 
back, desperately kick himself right side up, and go at 
it again as if he had heard the bell go, only to meet 
with a similar rebuff. The plants are most forbearing 
teachers, and their behaviour in every way a credit to 
them. I hope that they may in time have a moral and 
educational effect on this overrated insect, enabling him 
to realise how wrong it is for him to force himself where 
he is not welcome ; but a few more thousand years, I 
fear, will elapse before the ant is anything but a chuckle- 
headed, obstinate wretch. Nothing nowadays but his 
happening to fall off with his head in the direction of 


some other vegetable frees the slippery plant from his 
attempts. To this other something off he rushes, and 
if it happens to be a plant that does not mind him up 
he goes, and I have no doubt congratulates himself on 
having carried out his original intentions, understanding 
the world, not being the man to put up with nonsense 
and all that sort of thing, whereas it is the plant that 
manages him. Some plants don't mind ants knocking 
about among the grown-up leaves, but will not have 
them with the infants, and so cover their young stuff 
with a fur or down wherewith the ant can do nothing. 
Others, again, keep him and feed him with sweetstuff, 
so that he should keep off other enemies from its fruit, 
&c. But I have not space to sing in full the high in- 
telligence of West African vegetation, and I am no 
botanist ; yet one cannot avoid being struck by it, it is 
so manifold and masterly. 

Before closing these observations I must just mention 
that tiny, sandy-coloured abomination Myriaica molesta. 
In South West Africa it swarms, giving a quaint touch 
to domestic arrangements. No reckless putting down 
of basin, tin, or jam-pot there, least of all of the sugar- 
basin, unless the said sugar-basin is one of those com- 
monly used in those parts, of rough, violet-coloured 
glass, with a similar lid. Since I left South West Africa 
I have read some interesting observations of Sir John 
Lubbock's on the dislike of ants to violet colour. I 
wonder if the Portuguese of Angola observed it long 
ago and adopted violet glass for basins, or was it merely 
accidental and empirical ? I suspect the latter, or they 
would use violet glass for other articles. As it is, every- 
thing eatable in a house there is completely insulated 
in water — moats of water with a dash of vinegar in it — 
to guard it from the ants from below. To guard from 
the ants from above, the same breed and not a bit 
better, eatables are kept in swinging safes at the end 
of coir rope recently tarred. But when, in spite of these 
precautions, or from the neglect of them, you find, say 
your sugar, a brown, busy mass, just stand it in the full 
glare of the sun. Sun is a thing no ant likes, I believe, 

,Erysleys "StuJ^es in West AA-Cccl' 


Geoqfc JSstab?, London 



* v % 


and it is particularly distasteful to ants with pale com- 
plexions ; and so you can see them tear themselves 
away from their beloved sugar and clear off like a Hyde 
Park meeting smitten by a thunderstorm. 

This kind of ant, or a nearly allied species, is found in 
houses in England, where it is supposed they have been 
imported from the Brazils or West Indies in 1828. 
Possibly the Brazils got it from South West Africa, with 
which they have had a trade since the sixteenth century, 
most of the Brazil slaves coming out of Congo. It is 
unlikely that the importation was the other way about ; 
for exotic things, whether plants or animals, do not 
catch on in Western Africa as they do in Australia. In 
the former land everything of the kind requires constant 
care to keep it going at all, and protect it from the 
terrific local circumstances. It is no use saying to 
animal or vegetable, " There is room for all in Africa'' — 
for Africa, that is Africa properly so called — Equatorial 
West Africa — is full up with its own stuff now, crowded 
and fighting an internecine battle with the most marvel- 
lous adaptations to its environment. 



Concerning the perils that beset the navigator in the Baixos of St. 
Ann, with some description of the country between the Sierra 
Leone and Cape Palmas and the reasons wherefrom it came to 
be called the Pepper, Grain, or Meleguetta Coast. 

It was late evening-time when the reached that 

part of the South Atlantic Ocean where previous ex- 
perience and dead reckoning led our captain to believe 
that Sierra Leone existed. The weather was too thick 
to see ten yards from the ship, so remembering certain 
captains who, under similar circumstances, failing to 
pick up the light on Cape Sierra Leone, had picked 
up the Carpenter Rock with their keels instead, he let 
go his anchor, and kept us rolling about outside until 
the morning came. Slipperty slop, crash ! slipperty 
slop, crash ! went all loose gear on board all night long ; 
and those of the passengers who went in for that sort 
of thing were ill from the change of motion. The mist, 
our world, went gently into grey, and then black, 
growing into a dense darkness filled with palpable, 
woolly, wet air, thicker far than it had been before. 
This, my instructors informed me, was caused by 
the admixture of the "solid malaria coming off the 

However, morning came at last, and even I was 01 
deck as it dawned, and was rewarded for my unwonte 
activity by a vision of beautiful, definite earth-fon 
dramatically unveiled. No longer was the 01 


only material world. The mist lifted itself gently off, 
as it seemed, out of the ocean, and then separated 
before the morning breeze ; one great mass rolling 
away before us upwards, over the land, where 
portions of it caught amongst the forests of the 
mountains and stayed there all day, while another 
mass went leisurely away to the low Bullham shore, 
from whence it came again after sunset to join the 
mountain and the ocean mists as they drew down and in 
from the sea, helping them to wrap up Freetown, 
Sierra Leone and its lovely harbour for the night. 

It was with a thrill of joy that I looked on Free- 
town harbour for the first time in my life. I knew 
the place so well, Yes ; there were all the bays, Kru, 
English and Pirate ; and the mountains, whose thunder 
rumbling caused Pedro do Centra to call the place 
Sierra Leona when he discovered it in 1462. And had 
not my old friend, Charles Johnson, writing in 1724, 
given me all manner of information about it during 
those delicious hours rescued from school books and 
dedicated to a most contentious study of A General 
History of Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious 
Pyrates ? That those bays away now on my right 
hand "were safe and convenient for cleaning and 
watering ; " and so on, and there rose up before my 
eyes a vision of the society ashore here in 1724 that 
lived " very friendly with the natives — being thirty 
Englishmen in all ; men who in some part of their lives 
had been either privateering, buccaneering, or pirating, 
and still retain and have the riots and humours 
common to that sort of life." Hard by, too, was Bence 
Island, where, according to Johnson, " there lives an old 
fellow named Crackers (his true name he thinks fit to 
conceal), and who was formerly a noted buccaneer ; he 
keeps the best house in the place, has two or three guns 
before his door with which he salutes his friends the 
pyrates when they put in, and lives a joval life with them 
all the while they are there." Alas ! no use to me was 
the careful list old Johnson had given me of the residents. 
They were all dead now, and I could not go ashore and 

32 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

hunt up " Peter Brown " or " John Jones," who had " one 
long boat and an Irish young man." Social things 
were changed in Freetown, Sierra Leone ; but only 
socially, for the old description of it is, as far as scenery 
goes, correct to-day, barring the town. Whether or no 
everything has changed for the better is not my business 
to discuss here, nor will I detain you with any descrip- 
tion of the town, as I have already published one after 
several visits, with a better knowledge than I had on my 
first call there. 

On one of my subsequent visits I fell in with Sierra 
Leone receiving a shock. We were sitting, after a warm 
and interesting morning spent going about the town 
talking trade, in the low long pleasant room belonging 
to the Coaling Company whose windows looked out 
over an eventful warehouse yard ; for therein abode a 
large dog-faced baboon, who shied stones and sticks at 
boys and any one who displeased him, pretty nearly as 
well as a Flintshire man. Also in the yard were a large 
consignment of kola nuts packed as usual in native- 
made baskets, called bilys, lined inside with the large 
leaves of a Ficus, and our host was explaining to my 
mariner companions their crimes towards this cargo, 
while they defended themselves with spirit. It seemed 
that this precious product if not kept on deck made a 
point of heating and then going mildewed ; while, if you 
did keep it on deck, either the first officer's minions went 
fooling about it with the hose, which made it swell up 
and burst and ruined it, or left it in unmitigated sun, 
which shrivelled it — and so on. This led, naturally, to 
a general conversation on cargo between the mariners 
and the merchants, during which some dreadful things 
were said about the way matches arrived, in West 
Africa and other things, snipped at shipper's own risk, 
let alone the way trade suffered by stowing hams next 
the boilers. Of course the other side was a complete 
denial of these accusations, but the affair was too vital 
for any of us to attend to a notorious member of the 
party who kept bothering us " to get up and look at 
something queer over King Tom." 


Now it was market day in Freetown ; and market 
day there has got more noise to the square inch in it 
than most things. You feel when you first meet it 
that if it were increased a little more it would pass 
beyond the grasp of human ear, like the screech of 
that whistle they , show off at the Royal Society's 
Conversazione. However, on this occasion the market 
place sent up an entire compound yell, still audible ; 
and we rose as one man as the portly housekeeper, 
followed by the small but able steward, burst into 
the room, announcing, in excited tones, " Oh ! the 
town be took by locusts ! The town be took by 
locusts ! " (B.C. fortissimo?) And we attended to the 
incident ; ousting the reporter of " the queer thing over 
King Tom " from the window, and ignoring his " I told 
you so," because he hadn't 

This was the first cloud of locusts that had come 
right into the town in the memory of the oldest 
inhabitant, though they occasionally raid the country 
away to the North. I am informed that when the chiefs 
of the Western Soudan do not give sufficient gifts to the 
man who is locust king and has charge of them — keep- 
ing them in holes in the desert of Sahara — he lets them 
out in revenge. Certainly that year he let them out with 
a vengeance, for when I was next time down Coast in the 
Oil Rivers I was presented with specimens that had 
been caught in Old Calabar and kept as big curios. 

This Freetown swarm came up over the wooded hills 
to the South- West in a brown cloud of singular structure, 
denser in some parts than others, continually changing 
its points of greatest density, like one of Thompson's 
diagrams of the ultimate structure of gases, for you could 
see the component atoms as they swept by. They were 
swirling round and round upwards-downwards like the 
eddying snowflakes in a winter's storm, and the whole air 
rustled with the beat of the locusts' wings. They hailed 
against the steep iron roofs of the store-houses, slid 
down it, many falling feet through the air before they 
recovered the use of their wings — the gutters were soon 
full of them — the ducks in the yard below were gobbling 


34 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

and squabbling over the layer now covering the ground, 
and the baboon chattered as he seized handfuls and 
pulled them to pieces. 

Everybody took them with excitement, save the jack 
crows, who on their arrival were sitting sleeping on the 
roof ridge. They were horribly bored and bothered by 
the affair. Twice they flopped down and tried them. 
There they were lying about in gutters with a tempting 
garbagey look, but evidently the jack crows found 
them absolutely mawkish ; so they went back to the 
roof ridge in a fuming rage, because the locusts battered 
against them and prevented them from sleeping. 

We left Sierra Leone on the late in the afternoon, 

and ran out again into the same misty wet weather. The 
next morning the balance of our passengers were neither 
up early, nor lively when they were up ; but to my sur- 
prise, after what I had heard, no one had the much- 
prognosticated attack of fever. All day long we steamed 
onwards, passing the Banana Isles and Sherboro Island 
and the sound usually called Sherboro River. 1 We, 
being a South- West Coast boat, did not call at the 
trading settlements here, but kept on past Cape St. Ann 
for the Kru coast. 

All day long the rain came down as if thousands of 
energetic — well, let us say — angels were hurriedly baling 
the waters above the firmament out into the ocean. 
Everything on board was reeking wet. 

You could sweep the moisture off the cabin panelling 
with your hand, and our clothes were clammy and musty, 
and the towels too damp on their own account to dry 
you. Why none of us started specialising branchiae I 
do not know, but feel that would have been the proper 
sort of breathing apparatus for such an atmosphere. 

The passengers were all at the tail end of their spirits, 
for Sierra Leone is the definite beginning of the Coast to 
the outgoer. You are down there when you leave it out- 
ward bound ; it is indeed the complement of Canary. 
Those going up out of West Africa begin to get excitec 

1 This word is probably a corruption of the old name for tl 
district, Cerberos. 


at Sierra Leone ; those going down into West Africa, 
particularly when it is the wet season, begin to get 
depressed. It did not, however, operate in this manner 
on me. I had survived Sierra Leone, I had enjoyed 
it ; why, therefore, not survive other places, and enjoy 
them ? Moreover, my scientific training, combined 
with close study of the proper method of carrying on 
the local conversation, had by now enabled me to under- 
stand its true spirit, never contradict, and, if you can, 
help it onward. When going on deck about 6 o'clock 
that evening, I was alarmed to see our gallant captain 
in red velvet slippers. A few minutes later the chief 
officer burst on my affrighted gaze in red velvet slippers 
too. On my way hurriedly to the saloon I encountered 
the third officer similarly shod. When I recovered from 
these successive shocks, I carried out my mission of 
alarming the rest of the passengers, who were in the 
saloon enjoying themselves peacefully, and reported 
what I had seen. The old Coasters, even including 
the silent ones, agreed with me that we were as good as 
lost so far as this world went ; and the deaf gentleman 
went hurriedly on deck, we think, " to take the sun " — it 
was a way he had at any time of day, because " he had 
been studying about how to fix points for the Govern- 
ment — and wished to keep himself in practice." 

My fellow new-comers were perplexed ; and one of 
them, a man who always made a point of resisting edu- 
cation, and who thought nothing of calling some of our 
instructor's best information " Tommy Rot ! " said, " I 
don't see what can happen ; we're right out at sea, and 
it's as calm as a millpond." 

" Don't you, my young friend ? don't you ? " sadly said 
an old Coaster. " Well, I'll just tell you there's precious 
little that can't happen, for we're among the shoals of 
St. Ann." 

The new-comers went on deck " just to look round ; " 
and as there was nothing to be seen but a superb speci- 
men of damp darkness, they returned to the saloon, one 
of them bearing an old chart sheet which he had bor- 
rowed from the authorities. Now that chart was not 

D 2 

36 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

reassuring ; the thing looked like an exhibition pattern 
of a prize shot gun, with the quantity of rocks marked 
down on it. 

" Look here," said an anxious inquirer ; " why are 
some of these rocks named after the Company's ships ? " 

" Think," said the calm old Coaster. 

(l Oh, I say ! hang it all, you don't mean to say they've 
been wrecked here ? Anyhow, if they have, they got off 
all right. How is it the ' Yoruba Rock ' and the ' Gambia 
Rock?' The 'Yoruba' and the 'Gambia 'are running 

" Those," explains the old Coaster kindly, " were the 
old ' Yoruba ' and ' Gambia.' The ' Bonny ' that runs now 
isn't the old ' Bonny.' It's the way with most of them, 
isn't it ? " he says, turning to a fellow old Coaster. " Na- 
turally," says his friend. " But this is the old original — 
you know, and it's just about time she wrote up her 
name on one of these tombstones." "You don't save 
ships," he continues, for the instruction of the new- 
comers, attentive enough now; "that go on the Kru 
coast, and if you get ashore you don't save the things 
you stand up in — the natives strip you." 

" Cannibals ! " I suggest. 

" Oh, of course they are cannibals ; they are all can- 
nibals, are natives down here when they get the chance. 
But, that does not matter ; you see what I object to is 
being brought on board the next steamer that happens 
to call crowded with all sorts of people you know, and 
with a lady missionary or so among them, just with 
nothing on one but a flyaway native cloth. You re- 
member D ? " " Well," says his friend. Strengthened 

by this support, he takes his turn at instructing the 
young critic, saying soothingly, " There, don't you worry ; | 
have a good dinner." (It was just being laid.) "For if 
you do get ashore the food is something beastly. But, 
after all, what with the sharks and the surf and the can- 
nibals, you know the chances are a thousand to one that 
the worst will come to the worst and you will live to 
miss your trousers." 

After dinner we new-comers went on deck to keep 



an eye on Providence, and I was called on to explain 
how the alarm had been given me by the footgear of 
the officers. I said, like all great discoveries, " it was 
founded on observation made in a scientific spirit." I 
had noticed that whenever a particularly difficult bit of 
navigation had to be done on our boat, red velvet 
slippers were always worn, as for instance, when running 
through the heavy weather we had met south of the 
Bay, on going in at Puerto de la Luz, and on rounding 
the Almadia reefs, and on entering Freetown harbour 
in fog. But never before had I seen more than one 
officer wearing them at a time, while to-night they were 
blazing like danger signals at the shore ends of all 

My opinion as to the importance of these articles to 
navigation became further strengthened by subsequent 
observations in the Bights of Biafra and Benin. We 
picked up rivers in them, always wore them when 
crossing bars, and did these things on the whole suc- 
cessfully. But once 1 was on a vessel that was rash 
enough to go into a difficult river — Rio Del Rey — without 
their aid. That vessel got stuck fast on a bank, and, as 
likely as not, would be sticking there now with her crew 
and passengers mere mosquito-eaten skeletons, had not 
our first officer rushed to his cabin, put on red velvet 
slippers and gone out in a boat, energetically sounding 
around with a hand lead. Whereupon we got off, for 
clearly it was not by his sounding ; it never amounted 
to more than two fathoms, while we required a good 
three-and a half. Yet that first officer, a truthful man 
always, said " Nobody did a stroke of work on board that 
vessel bar himself"; so I must leave the reader to escape 
if he can from believing it was the red velvet slippers 
that saved us, merely remarking that these invaluable 
nautical instruments were to be purchased at Hamburg, 
and were possibly only met with on boats that run to 
Hamburg and used by veterans of that fleet. 

If you will look on the map, not mine, but one visible 
to the naked eye, you will see that the Coast from Sierra 
Leone to Cape Palmas is the lower bend of the hump of 

38 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

Africa and the turning point into the Bights of Benin, 
Biafra and Panavia. 

Its appearance gives the voyager his first sample of 
those stupendous sweeps of monotonous landscapes so 
characteristic of Africa. From Sherboro River to Cape 
Mount, viewed from the sea, every mile looks as like the 
next as peas in a pod, and should a cruel fate condemn 
you to live ashore here in a factory you get so used to 
the eternal sameness that you automatically believe that 
nothing else but this sort of world, past, present, or 
future, can ever have existed : and that cities and moun- 
tains are but the memories of dreams. A more horrible 
life than a life in such a region for a man who never 
takes to it, it is impossible to conceive ; for a man who 
does take to it, it is a kind of dream life. I am judging 
from the few men I have met who have been stationed 
here in the few isolated little factories that are estab- 
lished. Some of them look like haunted men, who, 
when they are among white men again, cling to their 
society : others are lazy, dreamy men, rather bored by it. 

The kind of country that produces this effect must be 
exceedingly simple in make : it is not the mere isolation 
from fellow white men that does it — for example, the 
handful of men who are on the Ogowe do not get like 
this, though many of them are equally lone men, yet 
they are bright and lively enough. Anyhow, exceed- 
ingly simple in make as is this region of Africa from 
Sherboro to Cape Mount, it consists of four different 
things in four long lines — lines that go away into 
eternity for as far as eye can see. There is the band of 
yellow sand on which your little factory is built. This 
band is walled to landwards by a wall of dark forest, 
mounted against the sky to seaward by a wall of white 
surf; beyond that there is the horizon-bounded ocean. 
Neither the forest-wall nor surf-wall changes enough to 
give any lively variety ; they just run up and down a 
gamut of the same set of variations. In the light of 
brightest noon the forest- wall stands dark against the 
dull blue sky, in the depth of the darkest night you can 
see it stand darker still, against the stars ; on moonlight 


nights and on tornado nights, when you see the forest-wall 
by the lightning light, it looks as if it had been done 
over with a coat of tar. The surf-wall is equally 
consistent, it may be bad, or good as surf, but it's 
generally the former, which merely means it is a higher, 
broader wall, and more noisy, but it's the same sort of 
wall, making the same sort of noise all the time. It is 
always white ; in the sunlight, snowy white suffused with 
a white mist wherein are little broken, quivering bits of 
rainbows. In the moonlight, it gleams with a whiteness 
there is in nothing else on earth. If you can imagine a' 
non-transparent diamond wall, I think you will get some 
near idea to it, and even on the darkest of dark nights 
you can still see the surf-wall clearly enough, for it 
shows like the ghost of its daylight self, seeming to have 
in it a light of its own, and you love or hate it. Night 
and day and season changes pass over these things, like 
reflections in a mirror, without altering the mirror frame ; 
but nothing comes that ever stills for one-half second 
the thunder of the surf-wall or makes it darker, or makes 
the forest-wall brighter than the rest of your world. 
Mind you, it is intensely beautiful, intensely soothing, 
intensely interesting, if you can read it and you like it, 
but life for a man who cannot and does not is a living 

But if you are seafaring there is no chance for a 
brooding melancholy to seize on you hereabouts, for you 
soon run along this bit of coast and see the sudden, 
beautiful headland of Cape Mount, which springs aloft 
in several rounded hills a thousand and odd feet above 
the sea and looking like an island. After passing it, 
the land rapidly sinks again to the old level, for a 
stretch of another 46 miles or so when Cape Mesurado, 1 
rising about 200 feet, seems from seaward to be another 

1 The derivation of this name given by Barbot is from miseri- 
cordia. " As some pretend on occasion of a Portuguese ship cast 
away near the little river Druro, the men of that ship were assaulted 
by the negroes, which made the Portuguese cry for quarter, using 
the word misericordia, from which by corruption mesurado." 


The capital of the Liberian Republic, Monrovia, is 
situated on the southern side of the river Mesurado, and 
right under the high land of the Cape, but it is not 
visible from the roadstead, and then again comes the 
low coast, unrolling its ribbon of sandy beach walled as 
before with forest-wall and surf, but with the difference 
that between the sand beach and the forest are long 
stretches of lagooned waters. Evil looking, mud-fringed 
things they were, when I once saw them at the end of a 
hard, dry season, but when the wet season's rains come 
they are transformed into beautiful lakes ; communicat- 
ing with each other and overflowing by shallow channels 
which they cut here and there through the sand-beach 
ramparts into the sea. 

The identification of places from aboard ship along 
such a coast as this is very difficult. Even good sized 
rivers doubling on themselves sneak out between sand 
banks, and make no obvious break in surf or forest wall. 
The old sailing direction that gave as a landmark the 
" Tree with two crows on it " is as helpful as any one 
could get of many places here, and when either the 
smoke season or the wet season is on of course you 
cannot get as good as that. But don't imagine that 
unless the navigator wants to call on business, he can 
" just put up his heels and blissfully think o' nowt," for 
this bit of the West Coast of Africa is one of the most 
trying in the world to work. Monotonous as it is ashore, 
it is exciting enough out to sea in the way of the rocks 
and shoals, and an added danger exists at the beginning 
and end of the wet, and the beginning of the dry season, 
in the shape of tornadoes. 1 These are sudden storms 
coming up usually with terrific violence; customarily from 
the S.E. and E., but sometimes towards the end of the 
season straight from S. More slave ships than enough 
have been lost along this bit of coast in their time, let 
alone decent Bristol Guineamen into the bargain, owing 
to " a delusion that occasionally seized inexperienced 

1 Tornado is possibly a corruption from the Portuguese trovado, 
a thunderstorm ; or from tornado, signifying returned ; but most 
likely it comes from the Spanish torneado, signifying thunder. 


commanders that it was well to heave-to for a tornado, 
whereas a sailing ship's best chance lay in her heels." 
It was a good chance too, for owing to the short duration 
of this breed of hurricane and their terrific rain, there 
accompanies them no heavy sea, the tornado-rain iron- 
ing the ocean down ; so if, according to one of my 
eighteenth century friends, you see that well-known 
tornado-cloud arch coming, and you are on a Guinea- 
man, for your sins, " a dray of a vessel with an Epping 
Forest of sea growth on her keel, and two-thirds of the 
crew down with fever or dead of it, as likely they will 
be after a spell on this coast," the sooner you get her 
ready to run the better, and with as little on her as you 
can do with. If, however, there be a white cloud inside 
the cloud-arch you must strip her quick and clean, for 
that tornado is going to be the worst tornado you were 
ever in. 

Nevertheless, tornadoes are nothing to the rocks round 
here. At the worst, there are but two tornadoes a day, 
always at tide turn, only at certain seasons of the year, 
and you can always see them coming ; but it is not that 
way with the rocks. There is at least one to each 
quarter hour in the entire twenty-four. They are there 
all the year round, and more than one time in forty you 
can't see them coming. In case you think I am over- 
stating the case, I beg to lay before you the statement 
concerning rocks given me by an old captain, who was 
used to these seas and never lost a ship. I had said 
something flippant about rocks, and he said, " I'll wiite 
them down for you, missy." This is just his statement 
for the chief rocks between Junk River and BafTu ; not 
a day's steamer run. " Two and three quarters miles 
and six cables N.W. by W. from Junk River there is 
' Hooper's Patch,' irregular in shape, about a mile long 
and carrying in some places only 2\ fathoms of water. 
There is another bad patch about a mile and a-half from 
Hooper's, so if you have to go dodging your way into 
Marshall, a Liberian settlement, great caution and good 
luck is useful. In Waterhouse Bay there's a cluster of 
pinnacle rocks all under water, with a will-o'-the wisp 

42 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

kind of buoy, that may be there or not to advertise 
them. One rock at Tobokanni has the civility to show 
its head above water, and a chum of his, that lies about 
a mile W. by S. from Tobokanni Point, has the seas 
constantly breaking on it. The coast there is practically 
reefed for the next eight miles, with a boat channel 
near the shore. But there is a gap in this reef at Young 
Sesters, through which, if you handle her neatly, you 
can run a ship in. In some places this reef of rock is 
three-quarters of a mile out to sea. Trade Town is the 
next place where you may now call for cargo. Its par- 
ticular rock lies a mile out and shows well with the sea 
breaking on it. After Trade Town the rocks are more 
scattered, and the bit of coast by Kurrau River rises in 
cliffs 40 to 60 feet high. The sand at their base is 
strewn with fallen blocks on which the surf breaks with 
great force, sending the spray up in columns ; and until 
you come to Sestos River the rocks are innumerable, 
but not far out to sea, so you can keep outside them 
unless you want to run in to the little factory at Tembo. 
Just beyond Sestos River, three-quarters of a mile S.S.W. 
of Fen River, there are those Fen rocks on which the 
sea breaks, but between these and the Manna rocks, 
which are a little more than a mile from shore N.W. by 
N. from Sestos River, there are any quantity of rocks 
marked and not marked on the chart. These Manna 
rocks are a jolly bad lot, black, and only a few break- 
ing, and there is a shoal bank to the S.E. of these for 
half a mile, then for the next four miles, there are not 
more than 70 hull openers to the acre. Most of them 
are not down on the chart, so there's plenty of oppor- 
tunity now about for you to do a little African discovery 
until you come to Sestos reef, off a point of the same 
name, projecting half a mile to westwards with a lot of 
foul ground round it. Spence rock which breaks, is W. 
two-thirds S., distant 1 \ miles from Sestos Point ; within 
5 miles of it is the rock which The Corisco discovered in 
1885. It is not down on the chart yet, all these set of 
rocks round Sestos are sharp too, so the lead gives you 
no warning, and you are safer right away from them. 



Then there's a very nasty one called Diabolitos. I ex- 
pect those old Portuguese found it out, it's got a lot of 
little ones which extend 2 miles and more to seaward. 
There is another devil rock off Bruni, called by the 
natives Ba Ya. It stands 60 feet above sea-level, and 
has a towering crown of trees on it. It is a bad one is 
this, for in thick weather, as it is a mile off shore and 
isolated, it is easily mistaken, and so acts as a sort of 
decoy for the lot of sunken devil rocks which are round 
it. Further along towards Baffu there are four more 
rocks a mile out, and foul ground all the way." 

I just give you this bit of information as an example, 
because I happen to have this rough rock list of it ; but 
a little to the east the rocks and dangers of the Kru 
Coast are quite as bad, both in quantity and quality, 
indeed, more so, for there is more need for vessels to 
call. I often think of this bit of coast when I see peo- 
ple unacquainted with the little local peculiarities of 
dear West Africa looking at a map thereof and wonder- 
ing why such and such a Bay is not utilised as a harbour, 
or such and such a river not navigated, or this, that and 
the other bit of Coast so little known of and traded with. 
Such undeveloped regions have generally excellent local 
reasons, reasons that cast no blame on white man's 
enterprise or black man's savagery. They are rock- 
reefed coast or barred rivers, and therefore not worth 
the expense to the trader of working them, and you 
must always remember that unless the trader opens up 
bits of West Africa no one else will. It may seem 
strange to the landsman that the navigator should hug 
such a coast as the shoals (the Baixos as the old Portu- 
guese have it) of St. Ann — but they do. If you ask a 
modern steamboat captain he will usually tell you it is 
to save time, a statement that the majority of the pas- 
sengers on a West Coast boat will receive with open 
derision and contempt, holding him to be a spendthrift 
thereof ; but I myself fancy that hugging this coast is a 
vestigial idea. In the old sailing-ship days, if you ran 
out to sea far from these shoals you lost your wind, and 
maybe it would take you five mortal weeks to go from 


Sierra Leone to Cape Mount or Wash Congo, as the 
natives called it in the 17th century. 

Off the Kru Coast, both West Coast and South-West 
Coast steamers and men-o'-war on this station, call to 
ship or unship Krumen. The character of the rocks, of 
which I have spoken — their being submerged for the 
most part, and pinnacles — increases the danger con- 
siderably, for a ship may tear a wound in herself that 
will make short work of her, yet unless she remains 
impaled on the rock, making, as it were, a buoy of 
herself, that rock might not be found again for years. 

This sort of thing has happened many times, and the 
surveying vessels, who have been instructed to localise 
the danger and get it down on the chart, have failed to 
do so in spite of their most elaborate efforts ; whereby 
the more uncharitable of the surveying officers are led 
in their wrath to hold that the mercantile marine officers 
who reported that rock and gave its bearings did so 
under the influence of drink, while the more charitable 
and scientifically inclined have suggested that elevation 
and subsidence are energetically and continually at 
work along the Bight of Benin, hoisting up shoals to 
within a few feet of the surface in some places, and 
withdrawing them in others to a greater depth. 

The people ashore here are commonly spoken of as 
Liberians and Kruboys. The Liberians are colonists in 
the country, having acquired settlements on this coast 
by purchase from the chiefs of the native tribes. The 
idea of restoring the Africans carried off by the slave 
trade to Africa occurred to America before it did to 
England, for it was warmly advocated by the Rev. 
Samuel Hoskins, of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1770, 
but it was 1 8 16 before America commenced to act on it, 
and the first emigrants embarked from New York for 
Liberia in 1820. On the other hand, though England 
did not get the idea until 1787, she took action at once, 
buying from King Tom, through the St. George's Bay 
Company, the land at Sierra Leone between the 
Rochelle and Kitu River. This was done on the 
recommendation of Mr. Smeatham. The same year 


was shipped off to this new colony the first consignment 
of 460 free negro servants and 60 whites ; out of those 
400 arrived and survived their first fortnight, and set 
themselves to build a town called Granville, after Mr. 
Granville Sharpe, whose exertions had resulted in Lord 
Mansfield's epoch-making decision in the case of 
Somerset v. Mr. J. G. Stewart, his master, i.e., that no 
slave could be held on English soil. 

The Liberians were differently situated from their 
neighbours at Sierra Leone in many ways ; in some of 
these they have been given a better chance than the 
Africans sent to Sierra Leone — in other ways not so 
good a chance. Neither of the colonies has been com- 
pletely successful. 

I hold the opinion that if those American and 
English philanthropists could not have managed the 
affair better than they did, they had better have confined 
their attention to talking, a thing they were naturally 
great on, and left the so-called restoration of the African 
to his native soil alone. For they made a direful mess 
of the affair from a practical standpoint, and thereby 
inflicted an enormous amount of suffering and a terrible 
mortahty on the Africans they shipped from England, 
Canada, and America : the tradition whereof still clings 
to the colonies of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and gravely 
hinders their development by the emigration of educated, 
or at any rate civilised Africans now living in the West 
Indies and the Southern States of America. 

I am aware that there are many who advocate the 
return to Africa of the Africans who were exported 
from the West Coast during the slavery days. But I 
cannot regard this as a good or even necessary policy, 
for two reasons. One is that those Africans were not 
wanted in West Africa. The local supply of African is 
sufficient to develop the country in every way. There 
are in West Africa now, Africans thoroughly well edu- 
cated, as far as European education goes, and who are 
quite conversant with the nature of their own country 
and with the language of their fellow countrymen. 
There are also any quantity of Africans there who, 

46 SIERRA LEONE, ETC, chap. 

though not well educated, are yet past-masters in the 
particular culture which West Africa has produced on 
its inhabitants. 

The second reason is that the descendants of the 
exported Africans have seemingly lost their power of 
resistance to the malarial West Coast climate. This is a 
most interesting subject, which some scientific gentleman 
ought to attend to, for there is a sufficient quantity of 
evidence ready for his investigation. The mortality 
mong the Africans sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia 
has been excessive, and so also has been that amongst 
the West Indians who went to Congo Beige, while the 
original intention of the United Presbyterian Mission to 
Calabar had to be abandoned from the same cause. In 
fact it looks as if the second and third generation of 
deported Africans had no greater power of resistance to 
West Africa than the pure white races ; and such being 
the case it seems to me a pity they should go there. 
They would do better to bring their energies to bear on 
developing the tropical regions of America and leave 
the undisturbed stock of Africa to develop its own. 

However, we will not go into that now. I beg to 
refer you to Bishop Ingram's Sierra Leone after a 
Hundred Years, for the history of England's philan- 
thropic efforts. I may, some day, perhaps, in the 
remote future, write myself a book on America's effort, 
but I cannot write it now, because I have in my posses- 
sion only printed matter — a wilderness of opinion and a 
mass of abuse on Liberia as it is. No sane student of 
West Africa would proceed to form an opinion on any 
part of it with such stuff and without a careful personal 
study of the thing as it is. 

The natives of this part of the West coast, the abori- 
ginal ones, as Mrs. Gault would call them, are a different 
matter. You can go and live in West Africa without 
seeing a crocodile or a hippopotamus or a mountain, but 
no white man can go there without seeing and ex- 
periencing a Kruboy, and Kruboys are one of the main 
tribes here. Kruboys are, indeed, the backbone of 
white effort in West Africa, and I think I may say there 


is but one man of all of us who have visited West Africa 
who has not paid a tribute to the Kruboys' sterling 
qualities. Alas ! that one was one of England's greatest 
men. Why he painted that untrue picture of them I do 
not know. I know that on this account the magnificent 
work he did is discredited by all West Coasters. " If he 
said that of Kruboys," say the old Coasters, " how can he 
have known or understood anything ? " It is a painful 
subject, and my opinion on Kruboys is entirely with the 
old Coasters, who know them with an experience of 
years, not with the experience of any man, however 
eminent, who only had the chance of seeing them for a 
few weeks, and whose information was so clearly drawn 
from vitiated sources. All I can say in defence of my 
great fellow countryman is that he came to West Africa 
from the very worst school a man can for understanding 
the Kruboy, or any true Negro, namely, from the Bantu 
African tribes, and that he only fell into the error many 
other great countrymen of mine have since fallen into, 
whereby there is war and misunderstanding and dis- 
affection between our Government and the true Negro 
to-day, and nothing, as far as one can see, but a grievous 
waste of life and gold ahead. 

The Kruboy is indeed a sore question to all old 
Coasters. They have devoted themselves to us English, 
and they have suffered, laboured, fought, been massacred, 
and so on with us for generation after generation. 
Many a time Krumen have come to me when we have 
been together in foreign possessions and said, " Help us, 
we are Englishmen." They have never asked in vain of 
me or any Englishman in West Africa, but recognition of 
their services by our Government at home is — well, about 
as much recognition as most men get from it who do good 
work in West Africa. For such men are a mere handful 
whom a so-called Imperialism can neglect with impunity, 
and even if it has for the moment to excuse itself for so 
doing, it need only call us " traders." I say " us," because 
I am vain of having been, since my return, classed among 
the Liverpool traders by a distinguished officer. 

This part of Western Africa from Sierra Leone to 

48 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

Cape Palmas was known to the geographers amongst the 
classics as Lencc ^Ethiopia : to their successors as the 
Grain or Pepper or Melcguetta Coast I will discourse 
later of the inhabitants, the Kru, from an ethnological 
standpoint, because they are too interesting and im- 
port ant to be got in here. The true limits of the 
Grain coast are from the River Sestros to Growy, two 
leagues east of Cape Palmas according to Barbot, and 
its name came from the fact that it was thereabouts 
that the Portuguese, on their early expeditions in the 
15 th century, first came across grains of paradise, a 
circumstance that much excited those navigators at the 
time and encouraged them to pursue their expeditions to 
this region, for grains of paradise were in those days much 
valued and had been long known in European markets. 

These euphoniously-named spices are the seeds of 
divers amomums or in lay language, cardamum — 
Amomum Meleguetta (Roscoe) or as Pereira has it, 
Amomum granum Paradisi. Their more decorative 
appellation " grains of Paradise" is of Italian origin, the 
Italians having known and valued this spice, bought it, 
and sold it to the rest of Europe at awful prices long 
before the Portuguese, under Henry the Navigator, visited 
the West African Coast. The Italians had bought the 
spice from the tawny Moors, who brought it, with other 
products of West Africa, across the Desert to the 
Mediterranean port Monte Barca by Tripoli. 

The reason why this African cardamum received either 
the name of grains of Paradise or of Meleguetta pepper 
is, like most African things, wrapt in mystery to a 
certain extent. Some authorities hold they got the 
first name on their own merits. Others that the Italian 
merchants gave it them to improve prices. Others 
that the Italians gave it them honestly enough on ac- 
count of their being nice, and no one knowing where on 
earth exactly they came from, said, therefore, why not 
say Paradise? It is certain, however, that before the 
Portuguese went down into the unknown seas and found 
the Pepper coast that the Italians knew those peppers 


where that was, beyond that it was somewhere in 
Africa, this did not take away the sense of romance from 
the spice. 

As for their name Meleguetta, an equal divergence of 
opinion reigns. I myself think the proper word is 
meneguetta. The old French name was maneguilia, 
and the name they are still called by at Cape Palmas in 
the native tongue is emanequetta. The French claim to 
have brought peppers and ivory from the River Sestros 
as early as 1364, and the River Sestros was on the sea- 
board of the kingdom of Mene, but the termination 
quetta is most probably a corruption of the Portuguese 
name for pepper. But, on the other hand, the native name 
for them among the Sestros people is Waizanzag. And 
therefore, the whole name may well be European, and 
just as well called meleguetta as meneguetta, because 
the kingdom of Mene was a fief of the Empire of Melli 
when the Portuguese first called at Sestros. The other 
possible derivation is that which says mele is a corrup- 
tion of the Italian name for Turkey millet, melanga, 
a thing the grains rather resemble. Another very 
plausible derivation is that the whole word is Portuguese 
in origin, but a corruption of mala gens, the Portuguese 
having found the people they first bought them of a bad 
lot, and so named the pepper in memory thereof. This 
however is interestingly erroneous, and an early example 
of the danger of armchairism when dealing with West 
Africa. For the coast of the malegens was not the coast 
the Portuguese first got the pepper from, but it was that 
coast just to the east of the Meleguetta, where all they 
got was killing and general unpleasantness round by 
the Rio San Andrew, Drewin way, which coast is now 
included in the Ivory. 

The grains themselves are by no means confined to 
the Grain Coast, but are the fruit of a plant common in 
all West African districts, particularly so on Cameroon 
Mountain, where just above the 3,000 feet level on the 
east and south-east face, you come into a belt of them, 
and horrid walking ground they make. I have met 
with them also in great profusion in the Sierra del 


50 SIERRA LEONE, ETC. chap. 

Crystal ; but there is considerable difference in the 
kinds. The grain of Paradise of commerce is, like that 
of the East Indian cardamum, enclosed in a fibrous 
capsule, and the numerous grains in it are surrounded 
by a pulp having a most pleasant, astringent, aromatic 
taste. This is pleasant eating, particularly if you do not 
manage to chew up with it any of the grains, for they are 
amazingly hot in the mouth, and cause one to wonder 
why Paradise instead of Hades was reported as their 
" country of origin." 

The natives are very fond of chewing the capsule 
and the inner bark of the stem of the plant. They 
are, for the matter of that, fond of chewing anything, 
but the practice in this case seems to me more re- 
paying than when carried on with kola or ordinary 

Two kinds of meleguetta pepper come up from 
Guinea. That from Accra is the larger, plumper, 
and tougher skinned, and commands the higher price. 
The capsule, which is about 2 inches long by I inch 
in breadth, is more oval than that of the other kind, 
and the grains in it are round and bluntly angular, 
bright brown outside, but when broken open showing 
a white inside. The other kind, the ordinary Guinea 
Grain of commerce, comes from Sierra Leone and 
Liberia. They are devoid of the projecting 
tuft on the umbellicus. The capsule is like that of 
the Accra grain. When dry, it is wrinkled, and if 
soaked does not display the longitudinal frill of the 
Javan Amomum maximum y which it is sometimes 
used to adulterate. This common capsule is only 
about i \ inches long and \ an inch in diameter, but 
the grain when broken open is also white like the 
Accra one. There are, however, any quantity on 
Camaroons of the winged Javan variety, but these 
have so far not been exported. 

The plants that produce the grains are zingiberaceous, 
cane-like in appearance, only having broader, blunter 
leaves than the bamboo. The flower is very pretty, in 
some kinds a violet pink, but in the most common a 


violet purple, and they are worn as marks of submission 
by people in the Oil Rivers suing for peace. These 
flowers, which grow close to the ground, seeming to 
belong more to the root of the plant than the stem, or, 
more properly speaking, looking as if they had nothing 
to do with the graceful great soft canes round them, but 
were a crop of lovely crocus-like flowers on their own 
account, are followed by crimson-skinned pods enclosing 
the black and brown seeds wrapped in juicy pulp, quite 
unlike the appearance they present when dried or 

There is only a small trade done in Guinea grains 
now, George III. (Cap. 58) having declared that no 
brewer or dealer in wine shall be found in possession of 
grains of Paradise without paying a fine of ^"200, and 
that if any druggist shall sell them to a brewer that 
druggist shall pay a fine of ^"500 for each such offence. 

The reason of this enactment was the idea that the 
grains were poisonous, and that the brewers in using 
them to give fire to their liquors were destroying their 
consumers, His Majesty's lieges. As far as poison goes 
this idea was wrong, for Meleguetta pepper or grains of 
Paradise are quite harmless, though hot. Perhaps, how- 
ever, some consignment may have reached Europe with 
poisonous seeds in it. I once saw four entirely different 
sorts of seeds in a single sample. That is the worst of our 
Ethiopian friends, they adulterate every mortal thing that 
passes through their hands. I will do them the justice 
to say they usually do so with the intellectually compre- 
hensible end in view of gaining an equivalent pecuniary 
advantage by it. Still it is commercially unsound of 
them ; for example, for years they sent up the seeds of 
the Kickia Africana as an adulteration for Strophantus, 
whereas they would have made more by finding out 
that the Kickia was a great rubber-producing tree. 
They will often take as much trouble to put in foreign 
matter as to get more legitimate raw material. I really 
fancy if any one were to open up a trade in Kru Coast 
rocks, adulteration would be found in the third shipment. 
It is their way, and legislation is useless. All that is 

E 2 


necessary is that the traders who buy of them should 
know their business, and not make infants of themselves 
by regarding the African as one or expecting the govern- 
ment to dry nurse them. 

In private life the native uses and values these Guinea 
grains highly, using them sometimes internally, some- 
times externally, pounding them up into a paste with 
which they beplaster their bodies for various aches and 
pains. For headache, not the sequelae of trade gin, but 
of malaria, the forehead and temples are plastered with 
a stiff paste made of Guinea grain, hard oil, chalk, or 
some such suitable medium, and it is a most efficacious 
treatment for this fearfully common complaint in West 
Africa. But the careful ethnologist must not mix this 
medicinal plaster up with the sort of prayerful plaster 
worn by the West Africans at the time for Ju Ju, and go 
and mistake a person who is merely attending to his 
body for one who is attending to his soul. 



Containing some account of the divers noises of Western Afrik, 
and an account of the country east of Cape Palmas, and other 
things ; to which is added an account of the manner of 
shipping timber ; of the old Bristol trade ; and, mercifully for 
the reader, a leaving off. 

When we got our complement of Krumen on board, 
we proceeded down Coast with the intention of calling 
off Accra. I will spare you the description of the 
scenes which accompany the taking on of Kruboys ; 
they have frequently been described, for they always 
alarm the new-comer — they are the first bit of real 
Africa he sees if bound for the Gold Coast or beyond. 
Sierra Leone, charming as it is, has a sort of Christy 
Minstrel air about it for which he is prepared, but the 
Kruboy as he comes on board looks quite the Boys' 
Book of Africa sort of thing ; though, needless to 
remark, as innocent as a lamb, bar a tendency to acquire 
portable property. Nevertheless, Kruboys coming on 
board for your first time alarm you ; at any rate they 
did me, and they also introduced me to African noise, 
which like the insects is another most excellent thing 
that you should get broken into early. 

Woe to the man in Africa who cannot stand 
perpetual uproar ! Few things surprised me more than 
the rarity of silence and the intensity of it when you did 
get it. There is only that time which comes between 


10.30 A.M. and 4.30 P.M., in which you can look for 
anything like the usual quiet of an English village. We 
will give Man the first place in the orchestra, he deserves it. 
I fancy the main body of the lower classes of Africa 
think externally instead of internally. You will hear 
them when they are engaged together on some job — 
each man issuing the fullest directions and prophecies 
concerning it, in shouts ; no one taking the least notice 
of his neighbours. If the head man really wants them 
to do something definite he fetches those within his 
reach an introductory whack ; and even when you are 
sitting alone in the forest you will hear a man or woman 
coming down the narrow bush path chattering away 
with such energy and expression that you can hardly 
believe your eyes when you learn from him that he has 
no companion. 

Some of this talking is, I fancy, an equivalent to our 
writing. I know many English people who, if they 
want to gather a clear conception of an affair, write it 
down ; the African, not having writing, first talks it out. 
And again more of it is conversation with spirit 
guardians and familiar spirits, and also with those of 
their dead relatives and friends, and I have often seen a 
man, sitting at a bush fire or in a village palaver house, 
turn round and say, " You remember that, mother ? " to 
the ghost that to him was there. 

I remember mentioning this very touching habit of 
theirs, as it seemed to me, in order to console a sick and 
irritable friend whose cabin was close to a gangway then 
in possession of a very lively lot of Sierra Leone 
Kruboys, and he said, " Oh, I dare say they do, Miss 
Kingsley ; but I'll be hanged if Hell is such a damned 
way off West Africa that they need shout so loud." 

The calm of the hot noontide fades towards evening 
time, and the noise of things in general revives and 
increases. Then do the natives call in instrumental 
aid of diverse and to my ear pleasant kinds. Great is 
the value of the tom-tom, whether it be of pure native 
origin or constructed from an old Devos patent paraffin 
oil tin. Then there is the kitty-katty, so called from its | 

[ To face page 54. 

For Palm Wine. 


strange scratching- vibrating sound, which you hear down 
South, and on Fernando Po, of the excruciating mouth 
harp, and so on, all accompanied by the voice. 

If it be play night, you become the auditor to an 
orchestra as strange and varied as that which played 
before Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego. I know I am ' 
no musician, so I own to loving African music, bar that 
Fernandian harp ! Like Benedick, I can say, " Give me 
a horn for my money when all is done," unless it be a 
tom-tom. The African horn, usually made of a tooth 
of ivory, and blown from a hole in the side, is an 
instrument I unfortunately cannot play on. I have not 
the lung capacity. It requires of you to breathe in at 
one breath a whole S.W. gale of wind and then to 
empty it into the horn, which responds with a 
preliminary root-too-toot before it goes off into its noble 
dirge bellow. It is a fine instrument, and should be 
introduced into European orchestras, for it is full of 
colour. But I think that even the horn, and certainly 
all other instruments, savage and civilised, should bow 
their heads in homage to the tom-tom, for, as a method .• f 
of getting at the inner soul of humanity where are they 
compared with that noble instrument? You doubt it. 
Well, go and hear a military tattoo or any performance 
on kettledrums up here, and I feel you will reconsider the 
affair ; but even then, remember you have not heard all 
the African tom-tom can tell you. I don't say it's an 
instrument suited for serenading your lady-love with, 
but that is a thing I don't require of an instrument. All 
else the tom-tom can do, and do well. It can talk as 
well as the human tongue. It can make you want to 
dance or fight for no private reason, as nothing else can, 
and be you black or white it calls up in you all your 
Neolithic man. 

Many African instruments are, however, sweet and 
gentle, and as mild as sucking doves, notably the xylo- 
phonic family. These Marimbas, to use their most 
common name, are all over Africa, from Senegal to ' 
Zambesi. Their form varies with various tribes — the 
West African varieties almost universally have wooden 


keys instead of iron ones like the East Africa 
Personally, I like the West African best ; there is som 
thing exquisite in the sweet, clear, water-like note: 
produced from the strips of soft wood of graduated length 
that make the West African key-board. All these 
instruments have the sound magnified and enriched by 
a hollow wooden chamber under their key-board. In 
Calabar this chamber is one small shallow box, 
ornamented, as most wooden things are in Calabar, with 
poker work — but in among the Fan, under the key-board 
were a set of calabashes, and in the calabashes one hole 
apiece and that hole covered carefully with the skin of a 
large spider. While down in Angola you met the 
xylophone in the imposing form you can see on the 
opposite page. Of the orchid fibre-stringed harp, I have 
spoken elsewhere, and there remains but one more 
truly great instrument that I need mention. I have 
had a trial at playing every African instrument I 
have come across, under native teachers, and they have 
assured me that, with application, I should succeed in 
becoming a rather decent performer on the harp and 
xylophone, and had the makings of a genius for the 
tom-tom, but my greatest and most rapid triumph was 
achieved on this other instrument. I picked up the hang of 
the thing in about five minutes, and then being vain when 
I returned to white society I naturally desired to show 
off my accomplishment, but met with no encouragement 
whatsoever — indeed my friends said gently, but firmly, 
that if I did it again they should leave, not the settlement 
merely, but the continent, and devote their remaining 
years to sweeping crossings in their native northern 
towns — they said they would rather do this than hear 
that instrument played again by any one. 

This instrument is made from an old powder keg, with 
both ends removed ; a piece of raw hide is tied tightly 
round it over what one might call a bung-hole, while a 
piece of wood with a lump of rubber or fastening is 
passed through this hole. The performer then wets his 
hand, inserts it into the instrument, and lightly grasps 
the stick and works it up and down for all he is worth ; 



the knob beats the drum skin with a beautiful boom, and 
the stick gives an exquisite screech as it passes through 
the hole in the skin, which the performer enhances with an 
occasional howl or wail of his own, according to his taste 
or feeling. There are other varieties of this instrument, 
some with one end of the cylinder covered over and the 
knob of the stick beating the inside, but in all its forms 
it is impressive. 

Next in point of strength to the human vocal and 
instrumental performers come frogs. The small green 
one, whose note is like that of the cricket's magnified, is 
a part-singer, but the big bull frog, whose tones are all 
his own, sings in Handel Festival sized choruses. I don't 
much mind either of these, but the one I hate is a solo 
frog who seems eternally engaged at night in winding up 
a Waterbury watch. Many a night have I stocked thick 
with calamity on that frog's account ; many a night have 
I landed myself in hailing distance of Amen Corner from 
having gone out of hut, or house, with my mind too 
full of the intention of flattening him out with a slipper, 
to think of driver ants, leopards, or snakes. Frog hunt- 
ting is one of the worst things you can do in West 

Next to frogs come the crickets, with their chorus of 
I she did, she didn't," and the cicadas, but they knock off 
earlier than frogs, and when the frogs have done for the 
night there is quiet for the few hours of cool, until it gets 
too cool, and the chill that comes before the dawn wakes 
up the birds, and they wake you with their long, mellow, 
exquisitely beautiful whistles. 

The aforesaid are everyday noises in West Africa, and 
you soon get used to them or die of them ; but there are 
myriads of others that you hear when in the bush. The 
grunting sigh of relief of the hippos, the strange groaning, 
whining bark of the crocodiles, the thin cry of the bats, 
the cough of the leopards, and that unearthly yell that 
sometimes comes out of the forest in the depths of dark 
nights. Yes, my naturalist friends, it's all very well to 
say it is only a love-lorn, innocent little marmoset-kind 
of thing that makes it. I know, poor dear, Softly, Softly, 


and he wouldn't do it. Anyhow, you just wait until you 
hear it in a shaky little native hut, or when you are 
spending the night, having been fool enough to lose 
yourself, with your back against a tree quite alone, and 
that yell comes at you with its agony of anguish and 
appeal out of that dense black world of forest which the 
moon, be she never so strong, cannot enlighten, and 
which looks all the darker for the contrast of the glisten- 
ing silver mist that shows here and there in the clearings, 
or over lagoon, or river, wavering, twining, rising and 
falling ; so full of strange motion and beauty, yet, some- 
how, as sinister in its way as the rest of your surroundings, 
and so deadly silent. I think if you hear that yell cutting 
through this sort of thing like a knife and sinking des- 
pairingly into the surrounding silence, you will agree 
with me that it seems to favour Duppy, and that, per- 
chance, the strange red patch of ground you passed at the 
foot of the cotton tree before night came down on you, was 
where the yell came from, for that place is red and damp, 
and your native friends have told you it is so because of 
the blood wiped off a sasa-bonsum and his victims as 
he goes down through it to his under-world home. 

Seen from the sea, the Ivory Coast is a relief to the 
eye after the dead level of the Grain Coast, but the at- 
tention of the mariner to rocks has no practical surcease ; 
and there is that submarine horror for sailing ships, the 
Bottomless pit. They used to have great tragedies with 
it in olden times, and you can still, if you like, for that 
matter ; but the French having a station 15 miles to the 
east of it at Grand Bassam would nowadays prevent your 
experiencing the action of this phenomenon thoroughly, 
and getting not only wrecked but killed by the natives 
ashore, though they are a lively lot still. 

Now, although this is not a manual of devotion, I must 
say a few words on the Bottomless pit. All along the 
West Coast of Africa there is a great shelving bank, 
submarine, formed by the deposit of the great mud-laden 
rivers and the earth-wash of the heavy rains. The slope 
of what the scientific term the great West African bank 
is, on the whole, very regular, except opposite Piccaninny 

Secret Society Leaving the'^Sacred Grove. 

[To/accp 58 
Jengu Devil Dante of King William's Slaves, Sette CAmma, Nov. 9 1888. 


Bassam, where it is cut right through by a great chasm, 
presumably the result of volcanic action. This chasm 
commences about 15 miles from land, and is shaped like 
a V, with the narrow end shorewards. Nine miles out 
it is three miles wider and 2,400 feet deep, at three miles 
out the sides are opposite each other and there is little 
more than a mile between them, and the depth is 1,536 
feet ; at one mile from the beach the chasm is only a 
quarter of a mile wide and the depth 600 feet — close up 
beside the beach the depth is 120 feet The floor of this 
chasm is covered with grey mud, and some five miles 
out the surveying vessels got fragments of coral 

The sides of this submarine valley seem almost 
vertical cliffs, and herein lies its danger for the sailing 
ship. The master thereof, in the smoke or fog season 
(December — February), may not exactly know to a mile 
or so where he is, and being unable to make out 
Piccaninny Bassam, which is only a small native village 
on the sand ridge between the surf and the lagoon, he 
lets go his anchor on the edge of the cliffs of this 
Bottomless pit. Then the set of the tide and the 
onshore breeze cause it to drag a little, and over it goes 
down into the abyss, and ashore he is bound to go. In 
old days he and his ship's crew formed a welcome 
change in the limited dietary of the exultant native. 
Mr. Barbot, who knew them well, feelingly remarks, " It 
is from the bloody tempers of these brutes that the 
Portuguese gave them the name of Malagens, for they 
eat human flesh," and he cites how " recently they have 
massacred a great number of Portuguese, Dutch and 
English, who came for provisions and water, not 
thinking of any treachery, and not many years since, 
(that is to say, in 1677) an English ship lost three of its 
men ; a Hollander fourteen ; and, in 1678, a Portuguese, 
nine, of whom nothing was ever heard since." 

From Cape Palmas until you are past the mouth of 
the Taka river (St. Andrew) the coast is low. Then 
comes the Cape of the Little Strand (Caboda Prazuba), 
now called, I think, Price's Point. To the east of this 


you will see ranges of dwarf red cliffs rising above the 
beach and gradually increasing in height until they 
attain their greatest in the face of Mount Bedford, 
where the cliff is 280 feet high. The Portuguese called 
these Barreira Vermelhas ; the French, Kalazis Rouges ; 
and the Dutch, Roode Kliftin, all meaning Red Cliffs. 
The sand at their feet is strewn with boulders, and the 
whole country round here looks fascinating and 
interesting. I regret never having had an opportunity 
of seeing whether those cliffs had fossils on them, for 
they seem to me so like those beloved red cliffs of mine 
in Kacongo which have. The investigation, however, of 
such makes of Africa is messy. Those Kacongo cliffs 
were of a sort of red clay that took on a greasy 
slipperiness when they were wet, which they frequently 
were on account of the little springs of water that came 
through their faces. When pottering about them, after 
having had my suspicions lulled by twenty or thirty yards 
of crumbly dryness, I would ever and anon come across a 
water spring, and down I used to go — and lose nothing 
by it, going home in the evening time in what the local 
natives would have regarded as deep mourning for a 
large family — red clay being their sign thereof. The 
fossils I found in them were horizontally disposed layers 
of clam shells, with regular intervals, or bands, of red 
clay, four or five feet across ; between the layers some of 
the shell layers were 40 or more feet above the present 
beach level. - Identical deposits of shell I also found far 
inland in Ka Congo, but that has nothing to do with the 
Ivory Coast. 

Inland, near Drewin, on the Ivory Coast, you can see 
from the sea curious shaped low hills ; the definite range 
of these near Drewin is called the Highland of Drewin ; 
after this place they occur frequently close to the shore, 
usually isolated but now and again two or three together, 
like those called by sailors the Sisters. I am much 
interested in these peculiar-shaped hills that you see on 
the Ivory and Gold Coast, and again, far away down 
South, rising out of the Ouronuogou swamp, and have 
endeavoured to find out if any theories have been 


suggested as to their formation, but in vain. They look 
like great bubbles, and run from 300 to 2,000 feet. 

The red cliffs end at Mount Bedford and the estuary 
of the Fresco River, and after passing this the coast is 
low until you reach what is now called the district of 
Lahu, a native sounding name, but really a corruption 
from its old French name La-Hoe or Hou. 

You would not think, when looking at this bit of coast 
from the sea, that the strip of substantial brown sand- 
beach is but a sort of viaduct, behind which lies a chain 
of stagnant lagoons. In the wet season, these stretches 
of dead water cut off the sand-beach from the forest for 
as much as 40 miles and more. 

Beyond Mount La-Hou on this sand strip there are 
many native villages — each village a crowded clump of 
huts, surrounded by a grove of coco palm trees, each tree 
belonging definitely to some native family or individual, 
and having its owner's particular mark on it, and each 
grove of palm trees slanting uniformly at a stiff angle, 
which gives you no cause to ask which is the prevailing 
wind here, for they tell you bright and clear, as they lean 
N.E., that the S.W. wind brought them up to do so. 

Groves of coco palms are no favourites of mine. I 
don't like them. The trees are nice enough to look on, 
and nice enough to use in the divers ways you can use a 
coco-nut palm ; but the noise of the breeze in their 
crowns keeps up a perpetual rattle with their hard leaves 
that sounds like heavy rain day and night, so that you 
feel you ought to live under an umbrella, and your mind 
gets worried about it when you are not looking after it 
with your common sense. 

Then the natives are such a nuisance with coco-nuts. 
For a truly terrific kniff give me even in West Africa 
a sand-beach with coco-nut palms and natives. You 
never get coco-nut palms without natives, because they 
won't grow out of sight of human habitation. I am told 
also that one coco will not grow alone ; it must have 
another coco as well as human neighbours, so these 
things, of course, end in a grove. It's like keeping cats 
with no one to drown the kittens. 


Well, the way the smell comes about in this affair is 
thus. The natives bury the coco-nuts in the sand, so as 
to get the fibre off them. They have buried nuts in that 
sand for ages before you arrive, and the nuts have rotted, 
and crabs have come to see what was going on, a thing 
crabs will do, and they have settled down here and died 
in their generations, and rotted too. The sandflies and 
all manner of creeping things have found that sort of 
district suit them, and have joined in, while the natives, 
who are great hands at fishing, have flung all their fish 
offal there, and then there is usually a lagoon behind 
all this which contributes its particular aroma, so that 
between them the smell is a good one, even for West 

The ancient geographers called this coast Ajanginal 
^Ethiope, and the Dutch and French used to reckon it 
from Growe, where the Melaguetta Coast ends. Just 
east of Cape Palmas, to the Rio de Sweiro da Costa, 
where they counted the Gold Coast to begin, the Portu- 
guese divided the coast thus. The Ivory, or, as the 
Dutchmen called it, the Tand Kust, from Gowe to Rio 
St Andrew ; the Melaguetta from St. Andrew to the 
Rio Lagos ; 1 and the Quaqua from the Rio Lagos to 
Rio de Sweiro da Costa, which is just to the east of what 
is now called Assini. 

It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and now- 
a-days least known bits of the coast of the Bight of Benin ; 
but, taken altogether, with my small knowledge of it, I 
do not feel justified in recommending the Ivory Coast 
as either a sphere for emigration or a pleasure resort. 
Nevertheless, it is a very rich district naturally, and one 
of the most amusing features of West African trade you 
can see on a steamboat is to watch the shipping of 
timber therefrom. 

This region of the Bight of Benin is one of enormous 
timber wealth, and the development of this of late years 
has been great, adding the name of Timber Ports to the 
many other names this particular bit of West Africa 
bears, the Timber Ports being the main ports of the 
1 No connection with the Colony of Lagos. 



French Ivory Coast, and the English port of Axim on 
the Gold Coast. 

The best way to watch the working of this industry is 
to stay on board the steamer ; if by chance you go on 
shore when this shipping of mahogany is going on you 
may be expected to help, or get out of the way, which is 
hot work, or difficult. The last time I was in Africa we on 

the shipped 170 enormous baulks of timber. These 

logs run on an average 20 to 30 feet long and 3 to 4 feet 
in diameter. They are towed from the beach to the 
vessel behind the surf boats, seven and eight at a time, 
tied together by a rope running through rings called 
dogs, which are driven into the end of each log, and 
when alongside, the rope from the donkey engine crane 
is dropped overboard, and passed round the log by the 
negroes swimming about in the water regardless of sharks 
and as agile as fish. Then, with much uproar and advice 
the huge logs are slowly heaved on board, and either de- 
posited on the deck, or forthwith swung over the hatch and 
lowered down. It is almost needless to remark that, with 
the usual foresight of Man, the hatch is of a size unsuited 
to the log, and therefore as it hangs suspended, a chorus 
of counsel surges up from below and from all sides. 

The officer in command of this particular hatch 
presently shouts " Lower away," waving his hand grace- 
fully from the wrist as though he were practising for 
piano playing, but really to guide Shoo Fly, who is 
driving the donkey engine. The tremendous log hovers 
over the hatch, and then gradually, " softly, softly," as 
Shoo Fly would say, disappears into the bowels of the 
ship, until a heterogeneous yell in English and Kru warns 
the trained intelligence that it is low enough, or more 
probably too low. " Heave a link ! " shouts the officer, 
and Shoo Fly and the donkey engine heaveth. Then 
the official hand waves, and the crane swings round with 
a whiddle, whiddle, and there is a moment's pause, the 
rope strains, and groans, and waits, and as soon as the 
most important and valuable people on board, such as 
the Captain, the Doctor and myself, are within its reach 
to give advice, and look down the hatch to see what is 


going on, that rope likes to break, and comes clawing at 
us a mass of bent and broken wire, and as we scatter, 
the great log goes with a crash into the hold. Fortu- 
nately, the particular log I remember as indulging in 
this catastrophe did not go through the ship's bottom, as 
I confidently expected it had at the time, nor was any 
one killed, such a batch of miraculous escapes occurring 
for the benefit of the officer and men below as can only 
be reasonably accounted for by their having expected 
this sort of thing to happen. 

Quaint are the ways of mariners at times. That time 
they took on quantities of great logs at the main gang- 
way, well knowing that they would have to go down the 
hatch aft, and that this would entail hauling them along 
the narrow alley ways. This process was effected by 
rigging the steam winches aft, then two sharp hooks 
connected together by a chain at the end of the wire 
hawser were fixed into the head of the log, and the word 
passed " Haul away," water being thrown on the deck 
to make the logs slip easier over it, and billets of wood 
put underneath the log with the same intention, and the 
added hope of saving the deck from being torn by the 
rough-hewn, hard monster. 

Now there are two superstitions rife regarding this 
affair. The first is, that if you hitch the hooks lightly 
into each side of the log's head and then haul hard, the 
weight of the log will cause the hooks to get firmly and 
safely embedded in it. The second is, that the said 
weight will infallibly keep the billets under it in due 

Nothing short of getting himself completely and per- 
manently killed shakes the mariner's faith in these 
notions. What often happens is this. When the strain 
is at its highest the hooks slip out of the wood, and try 
and scalp any one that's handy, and now and again they 
succeed. There was a man helping that day at Axim 
whom the Doctor said had only last voyage fallen a victim 
to the hooks ; they slipped out of the head of the log and 
played round his own, laying it open to the bone at the 
back, cutting him over the ears and across the forehead, 


and if that man had not had a phenomenally thick skull 
he must have died. But no, there he was on this voyage 
as busy as ever with the timber, close to those hooks, and 
evidently with his superstitious trust in the invariable 
embedding of hooks in timber unabated one fraction. 

Sometimes the performance is varied by the hauling 
rope itself parting and going up the alley-way like a boa 
constrictor in a fit, whisking up black passengers and 
boxes full of screaming parrots in its path from places 
they had placed themselves, or been placed in, well out 
of its legitimate line of march. But the day it succeeds 
in clawing hold of and upsetting the cook's grease-tub, 
which lives in the alley-way, that is the day of horror for 
the first officer and the inauguration of a period of 
ardent holystoning for his minions. 

Should, however, the broken rope fail to find, as the 
fox-hunters would say, in the alley-way, it flings itself 
in a passionate embrace round the person of the donkey 
engine aft, and gives severe trouble there. The mariners, 
with an admirable faith and patience, untwine it, talking 
seriously to it meanwhile, and then fix it up again, may 
be with more care, and the shout, " Heave away ! " 
goes forth again ; the rope groans and creaks, the hooks 
go in well on either side of the log, and off it moves once 
more with a graceful, dignified glide towards its 
destination. The Bo'sun and Chips with their eyes on 
the man at the winch, and let us hope their thoughts 
employed in the penitential contemplation of their past 
sins, so as to be ready for the consequences likely to 
arise for them if the rope parts again, do not observe the 
little Whitehindunderbillet, as a German would call it, 
which is getting nearer and nearer the end of the log, 
which has stuck to the deck. In a few moments the log 
is off it, and down on Chips' toes, who returns thanks 
with great spontaneity, in language more powerful than 
select. The Bo'sun yells, " Avast heaving, there ! " and 
several other things, while his assistant Kruboys, 
chattering like a rookery when an old lady's pet parrot 
has just joined it, get crowbars and raise up the timber, 
and the Carpenter is a free man again, and the little 



white billet reinstated. " Haul away ! " roars the Bo'sun, 
" Abadeo Na nu de um oro de Kri Kri," join in the 
hoarse-voiced Kruboys, " Ji na oi," answers the excited 
Shoo Fly, and off goes that log again. The particular 
log whose goings on I am chronicling slewed round at 
this juncture with the force of a Roman battering ram, 
drove in the panel of my particular cabin, causing all 
sorts of bottles and things inside to cast themselves on 
the floor and smash, whereby I, going in after dark, got 
cut. But no matter, that log, one of the classic sized 
logs, was in the end safely got up the alley-way and 
duly stowed among its companions. For let West Africa 
send what it may, be it never so large or so difficult, be 
he never so ill-provided with tackle to deal with it, the 
West Coast mariner will have that thing on board, and 
ship it — all honour to his determination and ability. 

The varieties of timber chiefly exported from the 
West African timber ports are Oldfieldia Africana, of 
splendid size and texture, commonly called mahogany, 
but really teak, Bar and Camwood and Ebony. Bar and 
Cam are dye-woods, and, before the Anilines came in 
these woods were in great request ; invaluable they were 
for giving the dull rich red to bandana handkerchiefs and 
the warm brown tints to tweed stuffs. Camwood was 
once popular with cabinet makers and wood-turners 
here, but of late years it has only come into this market 
in roots or twisty bits — all the better these for dyeing, 
but not for working up ; and so it has fallen out of 
demand among cabinet makers, in spite of its beautiful 
grain and fine colour, a pinky yellow when fresh cut, 
deepening rapidly on exposure to the air into a rich, dark 
red brown. Amongst old Spanish furniture you will 
find things made from Camwood that are a joy to the 
eye. There has been some confusion as to whether Bar 
and Camwood are identical — merely a matter of age in 
the same tree or no — but I have seen the natives cutting 
both these timbers, and they are quite different trees in 
the look of them, as any one would expect from seeing a 
billet of Bar and one of Cam ; the former is a light 
porous wood and orange colour when fresh cut, while 


500 billets of Bar and only 1 50 to 200 of Cam go to the 

There are many signs of increasing enterprise in the 
West African timber trade, but so far this form of wealth 
has barely been touched, so vast are the West African 
forests and so varied the trees therein. At present it, 
like most West African industries, is fearfully handi- 
capped by the deadly climate, the inferiority and 
expensiveness of labour, and the difficulties of trans- 

At present it is useless to fell a tree, be it ever so fine, 
if it is growing at any distance from a river down which 
you can float it to the sea beach, for it would be 
impossible to drag it far through the liane-tangled West 
African forest. 

Indeed, it is no end of a job to drag a decent-sized 
log even two hundred yards or so to a river. The way 
it is done is this. When felling the tree you arrange 
that its head shall fall away from the river, then trim off 
the rough stuff and hew the heavy end to a rough point, 
so that when the boys are pully-hauling down the slope 
— you must have a slope — to the bank, it may not only 
be able to pierce the opposing undergrowth spearwise 
more easily than if its end were flat or jagged, but also 
by the fact of its own weight it may help their exertions. 

I have seen one or two grand scenes on the Ogowe 
with trees felled on steep mountain sides, wherein you 
had only got to arrange these circumstances, start your 
log on its downward course to the river, get out of 
the fair way of it, and leave the rest to gravity, 
which carried things through in grand style, with a 
crashing rush and a glorious splash into the river. 
You had, of course, to take care you had a clear bank 
and not one fringed with dead trees, into which your 
mighty spear would embed itself, and also to have a 
canoe load of energetic people to get hold of the log and 
keep it out of the current of that lively Ogowe river, or 
it would go off to Kama Country express. But this 
work on timber was far easier than that on the Gold or 
Ivory Coasts, whence most timber comes to Europe, and 

F 2 


where the make of the country does not give you so 
fully the assistance of steep gradients. 

After what I have told you about the behaviour of 
these great baulks on board ship you will not imagine 
that the log behaves well during its journey on land. 
Indeed, my belief in the immorality of inanimate nature 
has been much strengthened by observing the conduct 
of African timber. Nor am I alone in judging it harshly, 
for an American missionary once said to me, " Ah ! itP 
will be a grand day for Africa when we tiave driven out 
all the heathen devils ; they are everywhere, not only in 
graven images, but just universally scattered around." 
The remark was made on the occasion of a floor that 
had been laid down by a mission carpenter coming up on 
its own account, as native timber floors laid down by 
native carpenters customarily come, though the native 
carpenter lays Norway boards well enough. 

When, after much toil and tribulation and uproar, the 
log has been got down to the river and floated, iron rings 
are driven into it, and it is branded with its owner's 
mark. Then the owner does not worry himself much 
about it for a month or so, but lets it float its way down 
and soak, and generally lazy about until he gets together 
sufficient of its kind to make a shipment. 

One of the many strange and curious things they told 
me of on the West Coast was that old idea that hydro- 
phobia is introduced into Europe by means of these logs. 
There is, they say, on the West Coast of Africa a 
peculiarly venomous scorpion that makes its home on 
the logs while they are floating in the river, three-parts 
submerged on account of weight, and the other part 
most delightfully damp and cool to the scorpion's mind. 
When the logs get shipped frequently the scorpion gets 
shipped too, and subsequently comes out in the hold and 
bites the resident rats. So far I accept this statement 
fully, for I have seen more than enough rats and 
scorpions in the hold, and the West Coast scorpions are 
particularly venomous ; but feeling that in these days it 
is the duty of every one to keep their belief for religious 
purposes, I cannot go on and in a whole souled way 


believe that the dogs of Liverpool, Havre, Hamburg, 
and Marseilles worry the said rats when they arrive in 
dock, and, getting bitten by them, breed rabies. 

Nevertheless, I do not interrupt and say, " Stuff," 
because if you do this to the old Coaster he only offers 
to fight you, or see you shrivelled, or bet you half-a- 
crown, or in some other time-honoured way demonstrate 
the truth of his assertion, and he will, moreover, go on 
and say there is more hydrophobia in the aforesaid towns 
than elsewheref and as the chances are you have not got 
hydrophobia statistics with you, you are lost. Besides, 
it's very unkind and unnecessary to make a West 
Coaster go and say or do things which will only make 
things harder for him in the time " to come/' and any- 
how if you are of a cautious, nervous disposition you 
had better search your bunk for scorpions, before turning 
in, when you are on a vessel that has got timber on 
board, and the chances are that your labours will be 
rewarded by discovering specimens of this interesting 

Scorpions and centipedes are inferior in worrying 
power to driver ants, but they are a feature in Coast life, 
particularly in places — Cameroons, for example. If you 
see a man who seems to you to have a morbid caution 
in the method of dealing with his hat or folded dinner 
napkin, judge him not harshly, for the chances are he is 
from Cameroon, where there are scorpions — scorpions of 
great magnitude and tough constitutions, as was 
demonstrated by a little affair up here that occurred in a 
family I know. 

The inhabitants of the French Ivory Coast are an ex- 
ceedingly industrious and enterprising set of people in 
commercial matters, and the export and import trade is 
computed by a recent French authority at ten million 
francs per annum. No official computation, however, of 
the trade of a Coast district is correct, for reasons I will 
not enter into now. 

The native coinage equivalent here is the manilla — a 
bracelet in a state of sinking into a mere conventional 
token. These manillas are made of an alloy of copper 


and pewter, manufactured mainly at Birmingham and 
Nantes, the individual value being from 20 to 25 

Changes for the worse as far as English trade is 
concerned have passed over the trade of the Ivory Coast 
recently, but the way, even in my time, trade was 
carried on was thus. The native traders deal with the 
captains of English sailing vessels and the French 
factories, buying palm oil and kernels from the bush 
people with merchandise, and selling it to the native 
or foreign shippers. They get paid in manillas, which 
they can, when they wish, get changed again into 
merchandise either at the factory or on the trading ship. 
The manilla is, therefore, a kind of bank for the black 
trader, a something he can put his wealth into when he 
wants to store it for a time. 

They have a singular system of commercial corre- 
spondence between the villages on the beach and the 
villages on the other side of the great lagoon that 
separates it from the mainland. Each village on the 
shore has its particular village on the other side of the 
lagoon, thus Alindja Badon is the interior commercial 
centre for Grand Jack on the beach, Abia for Anama- 
quoa, or Half Jack, and so on. Anamaquoa is only 
separated from its sister village by a little lagoon that 
is fordable, but the other towns have to communicate 
by means of canoes. 

Grand Bassam, Assini, and Half Jack are the most 
important places on the Ivory Coast. The main portion 
of the first-named town is out of sight from seaboard, 
being some five miles up the Costa River, andall you can 
see on the beach are two large but lonesome-looking fac- 
tories. Half Jack, Jack a Jack, or Anamaquoa — there 
is nothing like having plenty of names for one place in 
West Africa, because it leads people at home who don't 
know the joke to think there is more of you than there 
naturally is — gives its name to the bit of coastfrom Cape 
Palmas to Grand Bassam, this coast being called the 
Half Jack, or quite as often the Bristol Coast, and for 
many years it was the main point of call for the Guinea- 


men, old-fashioned sailing vessels which worked the 
Bristol trade in the Bights. 

This trade was established during the last century by 
Mr. Henry King, of Bristol, for supplying labour to the 
West Indies, and was further developed by his two sons, 
Richard, who hated men-o'-war like a quaker, and 
William who loved science, both very worthy gentlemen. 
After their time up till when I was first on the Coast, 
this firm carried on trade both on the Bristol Coast and 
down in Cameroon, which in old days bore the name of 
Little Bristol-in-Hell, but now the trade is in other hands. 

According to Captain Binger, there are now about 30 
sailing ships still working the Ivory Coast trade, two of 
them the property of an energetic American captain, but 
the greater part belonging to Bristol. Their voyage out 
from Bristol varies from 60 to 90 days, according as you 
get through the horse latitudes — so-called from the 
number of horses that used to die in this region of calms 
when the sailing vessels bringing them across from 
South America lay, week out and week in, short alike of 
wind and water. 

In old days, when the Bristol ship got to the Coast 
she would call at the first village on it. Then the native 
chiefs and head men would come on board and haggle 
with the captain as to the quantity of goods he would 
let them have on trust, they covenanting to bring in 
exchange for them in a given time a certain number of 
slaves or so much produce. This arrangement being 
made, off sailed the Guineaman to his next village, where 
a similar game took place all the way down Coast to 
Grand Bassam. 

When she had paid out the trust goods to the last 
village she would stand out to sea and work back to her 
first village of call on the Bristol Coast to pick up the 
promised produce, this arrangement giving the native 
traders time to collect it. In nine cases out of ten, how- 
ever, it was not ready for her, so on she went to the next. 
By this time the Guineaman would present the spectacle 
of a farmhouse that had gone mad, grown masts, and 
run away to sea ; for the decks were protected from the 


burning sun by a well-built thatch roof, and she lounged 
along heavy with the rank sea growth of these seas. 
Sometimes she would be unroofed by a tornado, some- 
times seized by a pirate parasitic on the Guinea trade, 
but barring these interruptions to business she called 
regularly on her creditors, from some getting the pro- 
mised payment, from others part of it, from others again 
only the renewal of the promise, and then when she had 
again reached her last point of call put out to sea once 
more and worked back again to the first creditor village. 
In those days she kept at this weary round until she got 
in all her debts, a process that often took her four or five 
years, and cost the lives of half her crew from fever, and 
then her consorts drafted a man or so on board her, and 
kept her going until she was full enough of pepper, gold, 
gum, ivory, and native gods to sail for Bristol. There, 
when the Guineaman came in, were grand doings for the 
small boys, what with parrots, oranges, bananas, &c, but 
sad times for most of those whose relatives and friends 
had left Bristol on her. 

In much the same way, and with much the same risks 
the Bristol Coast trade goes on now, only there is little 
of it left, owing to the French system of suppressing 
trade. Palm oil is the modern equivalent to slaves, and 
just as in old days the former were trans-shipped from the 
coasting Guineaman to the transatlantic slavers, so now 
the palm oil is shipped off on to the homeward bound 
African steamers, while, as for the joys and sorrows, 
century change affects them not. So long as Western 
Africa remains the deadliest region on earth there will be 
joy over those who come up out of it ; heartache and 
anxiety over those who are down there fighting as men 
fought of old for those things worth fighting for, God, 
Glory and Gold ; and grief over those who are dead 
among all of us at home who are ill-advised enough to 
really care for men who have the pluck to go there. 

During the smoke season when dense fogs hang over 
the Bight of Benin, the Bristol ships get very considerably 
sworn at by the steamers. They have letters for them, 
and they want oil off them ; between ourselves, they want 


oil off every created thing, and the Bristol boat is not 
easy to find. So the steamer goes dodging and fumbling 
about after her, swearing softly about wasting coal all 
the time, and more harshly still when he finds he has 
picked up the wrong Guineaman, only modified if she 
has stuff to send home, stuff which he conjures the 
Bristol captain by the love he bears him to keep, and 
ship by him when he is on his way home from windward 
ports, or to let him have forthwith. 

Sometimes the Bristolman will signal to a passing 
steamer for a doctor. The doctors of the African and 
British African boats are much thought of all down the 
Coast, and are only second in importance to the doctor 
on board a telegraph ship, who, being a rare specimen, 
is regarded as, ipso facto, more gifted, so that people will 
save up their ailments for the telegraph ship's medical 
man, which is not a bad practice, as it leads commonly 
to their getting over those ailments one way or the other 
by the time the telegraph ship arrives. It is reported that 
one day one of the Bristolmen ran up an urgent signal to a 
passing mail steamer for a doctor, and the captain thereof 
ran up a signal of assent, and the doctor went below to 
get his medicines ready. Meanwhile, instead of 
displaying a patient gratitude, the Bristolman signalled 
" Repeat signal.'' " Give it 'em again," said the steam- 
boat captain, " those Bristolmen ain't got no Board 
schools." Still the Bristolman kept bothering, running 
up her original signal, and in due course off went the 
doctor to her in the gig. When he returned his captain 
asked him, saying, " Pills, are they all mad on board that 
vessel or merely drunk as usual ? " " Well," says the 
doctor, " that's curious, for it's the very same question 
Captain N. has asked me about you. He is very anxious 
about your mental health, and wants to know why you 
keep on signalling ' Haul to, or I will fire into you,' " and 
the story goes that an investigation of the code and the 
steamer's signal supported the Bristolman's reading, and 
the subject was dropped in steam circles. 

Although the Bristolmen do not carry doctors, they 
are provided with grand medicine chests, the supply of 


medicines in West Africa being frequently in the inverse 
ratio to the ability to administer them advantageously. 

Inside the lid of these medicine chests is a printed 
paper of instructions, each drug having a number before 
its name, and a hint as to the proper dose after it. Thus, 
we will say, for example, I was jalap ; 2, calomel ; 3, 
croton oil ; and 4, quinine. Once upon a time there was 
a Bristol captain, as good a man as need be and with a 
fine head on him for figures. Some of his crew were 
smitten with fever when he was out of number 4, so he 
argues that 2 and 2 are 4 all the world over, but being 
short of 2, it being a popular drug, he further argues 3 
and 1 make 4 as well, and the dose of 4 being so much 
he makes that dose up out of jalap and croton oil. 
Some of the patients survived ; at least, a man I met 
claimed to have done so. His report is not altogether 
reproducible in full, but, on the whole, the results of the 
treatment went more towards demonstrating the danger 
of importing raw abstract truths into everyday affairs 
than to encouraging one to repeat the experiment of 
arithmetical therapeutics. 



There is one distinctive charm about fishing — its fasci- 
nations will stand any climate. You may sit crouching 
on ice over a hole inside the arctic circle, or on a Windsor 
chair by the side of the River Lea in the so-called tem- 
perate zone, or you may squat in a canoe on an equa- 
torial river with the surrounding atmosphere 45 per cent, 
mosquito, and if you are fishing you will enjoy yourself ; 
and what is even more important than this enjoyment, 
you will not embitter your present, nor endanger your 
future, by going home in a bad temper, whether you 
have caught anything or not, provided always that you 
are a true fisherman. 

This is not the case with other sports ; I have been 
assured by experienced men that it " makes one feel 
awfully bad " when, after carrying for hours a very heavy 
elephant gun, for example, through a tangled forest you 
have got a wretched bad chance of a shot at an elephant : 
and as for football, cricket, &c, well, I need hardly 
speak of the unchristian feelings they engender in the 
mind towards umpires and successful opponents. 

Being, as above demonstrated, a humble, but enthu- 
siastic devotee of fishing — I dare not say, as my great 
predecessor Dame Juliana Berners says, " with an angle," 
because my conscience tells me I am a born poacher — 
I need hardly remark that when I heard, from a reliable 


authority at Gaboon, that there were lakes in the centre 
of the island of Corisco, and that these fresh-water lakes 
were fished annually by representative ladies from the 
villages on this island, and that their annual fishing was 
just about due, I decided that I must go there forthwith. 
Now, although Corisco is not more than twenty miles 
out to sea from the Continent, it is not a particularly 
easy place to get at nowadays, no vessels ever calling 
there ; so I got, through the kindness of Dr. Nassau, a 
little schooner and a black crew, and, forgetting my 
solemn resolve, formed from the fruits of previous ex- 
periences, never to go on to an Atlantic island again, off 
I sailed. I will not go into the adventures of that voyage 
here. My reputation as a navigator was great before I 
left Gaboon. I had a record of having once driven my 
bowsprit through a conservatory, and once taken all the 
paint off one side of a smallpox hospital, to say nothing 
of repeatedly having made attempts to climb trees in 
boats I commanded ; but when I returned, I had sur- 
passed these things by having successfully got my main- 
mast jammed up a tap, and I had done sufficient work 
in discovering new sandbanks, rock shoals, &c, in 
Corisco Bay, and round Cape Esterias, to necessitate, or 
call for, a new edition of The West African Pilot 

Corisco Island is about three miles long by if wide : 
its latitude 0*56 N., long. 9°2oJ E. Mr. Winwood Reade 
was about the last traveller to give a description of 
Corisco, and a very interesting description it is. He was 
there in the early sixties, and was evidently too fully 
engaged with a drunken captain and a mad Malay cook 
to go inland. In his days small trading vessels used to 
call at Corisco for cargo, but they do so no longer, all 
the trade in the Bay now being carried on at Messrs. 
Holt's factory on Little Eloby Island (an island nearer 
in shore), and on the mainland at Coco Beach, belonging 
to Messrs. Hatton and Cookson. 

In Winwood Reade's days, too, there was a settlement 
of the American Presbyterian Society on Corisco, with a 
staff of white men. This has been abandoned to a native 
minister, because the Society found that facts did not 


support their theory that the island would be more 
healthy than the mainland, the mortality being quite 
as great as at any continental station, so they moved on 
to the continent to be nearer their work. The only 
white people that are now on Corisco are two Spanish 
priests and three nuns ; but of these good people I saw 
little or nothing, as my headquarters were with the 
Presbyterian native minister, Mr. Ibea, and there was 
war between him and the priests. 

The natives are Benga, a coast tribe now rapidly 
dying out. They were once a great tribe, and in the 
old days, when the slaves and the whalers haunted 
Corisco Bay, these Benga were much in demand as 
crew men, in spite of the reputation they bore for 
ferocity. Nowadays the grown men get their living by 
going as travelling agents for the white merchants into 
the hinterland behind Corisco Bay, amongst the very 
dangerous and savage tribes there, and when one of 
them has made enough money by this trading, he comes 
back to Corisco, and rests, and luxuriates in the ample 
bosom of his family until he has spent his money — then 
he gets trust from the white trader, and goes to the 
Bush again, pretty frequently meeting there the sad fate 
of the pitcher that went too often to the well, and get- 
ting killed by the hinterlanders. 

On arriving at Corisco Island, I " soothed with a gift, 
and greeted with a smile " the dusky inhabitants. 
" Have you got any tobacco ? " said they. " I have," 
I responded, and a friendly feeling at once arose. I then 
explained that I wanted to join the fishing party. They 
were quite willing, and said the ladies were just finishing 
planting their farms before the tornado season came on, 
and that they would make the peculiar, necessary 
baskets at once. They did not do so at once in the 
English sense of the term, but we all know there is no 
time south of 40 , and so I waited patiently, walking 
about the island. 

Corisco is locally celebrated for its beauty. Winwood 
Reade says : " It is a little world in miniature, with its 
miniature forests, miniature prairies, miniature moun- 



tains, miniature rivers, and miniature precipices on the 
sea-shore." In consequence partly of these things, 
and partly of the inhabitants' rooted idea that the 
proper way to any place on the island is round by 
the seashore, the paths of Corisco are as strange 
as several other things are in latitude o, and, like 
the other things, they require understanding to get 
on with. 

They start from the beach with the avowed intention 
of just going round the next headland because the tide 
happens to be in too much for you to go along by the 
beach ; but, once started, their presiding genii might 
sing to the wayfarer Mr. Kipling's " The Lord knows 
where we shall go, dear lass, and the Deuce knows what 
we shall see." You go up a path off the beach gladly, 
because you have been wading in fine white sand over 
your ankles, and in banks of rotten and rotting seaweed, 
on which centipedes, and other catamumpuses, crawl in 
profusion, not to mention sand-flies, &c, and the path 
makes a plunge inland, as much as to say, " Come and 
see our noted scenery," and having led you through a 
miniature swamp, a miniature forest, and a miniature 
prairie, " It's a pity," says the path, " not to call at 
So-and-so's village now we are so near it," and off it 
goes to the village through a patch of grass or planta- 
tion. It wanders through the scattered village calling at 
houses, for some time, and then says, " Bless me, I had 
nearly forgotten what I came out for ; we must hurry 
back to that beach," and off it goes through more 
scenery, landing you ultimately about fifty yards off the 
place where you first joined it, in consequence of the 
South Atlantic waves flying in foam and fury against a 
miniature precipice — the first thing they have met that 
dared stay their lordly course since they left Cape Horn 
or the ice walls of the Antarctic. 

At last the fishing baskets were ready, and we set off 
for the lakes by a path that plunged into a little ravine, 
crossed a dried swamp, went up a hill, and on to an 
open prairie, in the course of about twenty minutes. 
Passing over this prairie, and through a wood, we came 


to another prairie, like most things in Corisco just then 
(August) dried up, for it was the height of the dry- 
season. On this prairie we waited for some of the 
representative ladies from other villages to come up ; for 
without their presence our fishing would not have been 
legal. When you wait in West Africa it eats into your 
lifetime to a considerable extent, and we spent half-an- 
hour or so standing howling, in prolonged, intoned 
howls, for the absent ladies, notably grievously for 
On-gou-ta ; and when they came not, we threw ourselves 
down on the soft, fine, golden-brown grass, in the sun, 
and all, with the exception of myself, went asleep. After 
about two and a half hours I was aroused from the 
contemplation of the domestic habits of some beetles, by 
hearing a crackle, crackle, interspersed with sounds like 
small pistols going off, and looking round saw a fog 
of blue-brown smoke surmounting a rapidly-advancing 
wall of red fire. 

I rose, and spread the news among my companions, 
who were sleeping, with thumps and kicks. Shouting 
at a sleeping African is labour lost. And then I made 
a bee-line for the nearest green forest wall of the prairie, 
followed by my companions. Yet, in spite of some very 
creditable sprint performances on their part, three mem- 
bers of the band got scorched. Fortunately, however, 
our activity landed us close to the lakes, so the scorched 
ones spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in mud- 
holes, comforting themselves with the balmy black slime. 
The other ladies turned up soon after this, and said 
that the fire had arisen from some man having set fire 
to a corner of the prairie some days previously, to 
make a farm ; he had thought the fire was out round 
his patch, whereas it was not, but smouldering in the 
tussocks of grass, and the wind had sprung up that 
afternoon from a quarter that fanned it up. I said, 
" People should be very careful of fire," and the scorched 
ladies profoundly agreed with me, and said things I will 
not repeat here, regarding "that fool man" and his 
female ancestors. 

The lakes are pools of varying extent and depth, in 


the bed-rock * of the island, and the fact that they are 
surrounded by thick forests on every side, and that the 
dry season is the cool season on the Equator, prevents 
them from drying up. 

Most of these lakes are encircled by a rim of rock, 
from which you jump down into knee-deep black slime, 
and then, if you are a representative lady, you waddle, 
and squeal, and grunt, and skylark generally on your 
way to the water in the middle. If it is a large lake 
you are working, you and your companions drive in 
two rows of stakes, cutting each other more or less at 
right angles, more or less in the middle of the lake, so 
as to divide it up into convenient portions. Then some 
ladies with their specially shaped baskets form a line, 
with their backs to the bank, and their faces to the 
water-space, in the enclosure, holding the baskets with 
one rim under water. The others go into the water, 
and splash with hands, and feet, and sticks, and, need- 
less to say, yell hard all the time. The naturally alarmed 
fish fly from them, intent on getting into the mud, and 
are deftly scooped up by the peck by the ladies in their 
baskets. In little lakes the staking is not necessary, 
but the rest of the proceedings are the same. Some 
of the smaller lakes are too deep to be thus fished at all, 
being, I expect, clefts in the rock, such as you see in 
other parts of the island, sometimes 30 or 40 feet deep. 

The usual result of the day's fishing is from twelve 
to fifteen bushels of a common mud-fish, 2 which is very 
good eating. The spoils are divided among the repre- 
sentative ladies, and they take them back to their re- 
spective villages and distribute them. Then ensues, that 
same evening, a tremendous fish supper, and the fish 
left over are smoked and carefully kept as a delicacy, 
to make sauce with, &c, until the next year's fishing 
day comes round. 

The waters of West Africa, salt, brackish, and fresh 

1 Specimens of rock identified by the Geological Survey, London, 
as cretaceous, and said by other geologists up here to be possibly: 

2 Clarias laviaps. 


abound with fish, and many kinds are, if properly cooked, 
excellent eating. For culinary purposes you may 
divide the fish into sea-fish, lagoon-fish, and river-fish ; 
the first division, the sea-fish, are excellent eating, and 
are in enormous quantities, particularly along the 
Windward Coast on the Great West African Bank. 
South of this, at the mouths of the Oil rivers, they fall 
off, from a culinary standpoint, though scientifically they 
increase in charm, as you find hereabouts fishes of 
extremely early types, whose relations have an interesting 
series of monuments in the shape of fossils, in the sand- 
stone ; but if primeval man had to live on them when 
they were alive together, I am sorry for him, for he 
might just as well have eaten mud, and better, for then 
he would not have run the risk of getting choked with 
bones. On the South-West Coast the culinary value 
goes up again ; there are found quantities of excellent 
deep-sea fish, and round the mouths of the rivers, shoals 
of bream and grey mullet. 

The lagoon-fish are not particularly good, being as a 
rule supremely muddy and bony ; they have their uses, 
however, for I am informed that they indicate to Lagos 
when it may expect an epidemic ; to this end they die, 
in an adjacent lagoon, and float about upon its surface, 
wrong side up, until decomposition does its work. Their 
method of prophecy is a sound one, for it demonstrates 
(a) that the lagoon drinking water is worse than usual ; 
(J?) if it is not already fatal they will make it so. 

The river-fish of the Gold Coast are better than those 
of the mud-sewers of the Niger Delta, because the Gold 
Coast rivers are brisk sporting streams, with the 
exception of the Volta, and at a short distance inland 
they come down over rocky rapids with a stiff current. 
The fish of the upper waters of the Delta rivers are 
better than those down in the mangrove-swamp region ; 
and in the South-West Coast rivers, with which I am 
personally well acquainted, the up-river fish are excellent 
in quality, on account of the swift current. I will 
however leave culinary considerations, because cooking 
is a subject upon which I am liable to become diffuse 



and we will turn to the consideration of the sporting side: 
of fishing. 

Now, there is one thing you will always hear the Gold 
Coaster (white variety) grumbling about, " There is no 
sport." He has only got himself to blame. Let him try 
and introduce the Polynesian practice of swimming 
about in the surf, without his clothes, and with a suitable 
large, sharp knife, slaying sharks — there's no end of 
sharks on the Gold Coast, and no end of surf. The 
Rivermen have the same complaint, and I may recom- 
mend that they should try spearing sting-rays, things 
that run sometimes to six feet across the wings, and 
every inch of them wicked, particularly the tail. There 
is quite enough danger in either sport to satisfy a Sir 
Samuel Baker ; for myself, being a nervous, quiet 
rational individual, a large cat-fish in a small canoe 
supplies sufficient excitement. 

The other day I went out for a day's fishing on an 
African river, I and two black men, in a canoe, in 
company with a round net, three stout fishing-lines, three 
paddles, Dr. Giinther's Study of Fishes, some bait in an 
old Morton's boiled-mutton tin, a little manioc, stinking 
awfully (as is its wont), a broken calabash baler, a lot of 
dirty water to sit in, and happy and contented minds. I 
catalogue these things because they are either essential 
to, or inseparable from, a good day's sport in West 

Africa. Yes, even /, asks my vie friends down there, 

I feel sure they will tell you that they never had such 
experiences before my arrival. I fear they will go on 
and say, " Never again ! " and that it was all my fault, 
which it was not. When things go well they ascribe it, 
and their survival, to Providence or their own pre- 
cautions ; when things are merely usual in horror, it's 
my fault, which is a rank inversion of the truth, for it is 
only when circumstances get beyond my control, and 
Providence takes charge, that accidents happen. I will 
demonstrate this by continuing my narrative. We 
paddled away, far up a mangrove creek, and then went 
up against the black mud-bank, with its great network 
of grey-white roots, surmounted by the closely-interlaced 


black-green foliage. Absolute silence reigned, as it can 
only reign in Africa in a mangrove swamp. The water- 
laden air wrapped round us like a warm, wet blanket. 
The big mangrove flies came silently to feed on us and 
leave their progeny behind them in the wounds to do 
likewise. The stink of the mud, strong enough to break a 
window, mingled fraternally with that of the sour manioc. 

I was reading, the negroes, always quiet enough when 
fishing, were silently carrying on that great African 
native industry — scratching themselves — so, with our 
lines over side, life slid away like a dreamless sleep, 
until the middle man hooked a cat-fish. It came on 
board with an awful grunt, right in the middle of us ; 
flop, swish, scurry and yell followed ; I tucked the study 
of fishes in general under my arm and attended to this 
individual specimen, shouting " Lef em, lef em ; hev em 
for water one time, you sons of unsanctified house 
lizards, " 1 and such like valuable advice and admonition. 
The man in the more remote end of the canoe made an 
awful swipe at the 3 ft.-long, grunting, flopping, yellow- 
grey, slimy thing, but never reached it owing to the 
paddle meeting in mid-air with the flying leg of the man 
in front of him, drawing blood profusely. I really fancy 
about this time, that, barring the cat-fish and myself, 
the occupants of the canoe were standing on their heads, 
with a view of removing their lower limbs from the 
terrible pectoral and dorsal fins, with which our prey 
made such lively play. 

" Brevi spatio interjecto" as Caesar says, in the middle 
of a bad battle, over went the canoe, while the cat-fish 
went off home with the line and hook. One black man 
went to the bank, whither, with a blind prescience of 
our fate, I had flung, a second before, the most valuable 
occupant of the canoe, The Study of Fishes. I went 
personally to investigate fluvial deposit in situ. When 
I returned to the surface — accompanied by great swirls 
of mud and great bubbles of the gases of decomposition 
I had liberated on my visit to the bottom of the river — 

1 Translation : " Leave it alone ! Leave it alone ! Throw it 
into the water at once ! What did you catch it for ? " 

G 2 


I observed the canoe floating bottom upwards, accom- 
panied by Morton's tin, the calabash, and the paddles, 
while on the bank one black man was engaged in 
hauling the other one out by the legs ; fortunately this 
one's individual god had seen to it that his toes should 
become entangled in the net, and this floated, and so 
indicated to his companion where he was, when he had 
dived into the mud and got fairly embedded. 

Now it's my belief that the most difficult thing in the 
world is to turn over a round-bottomed canoe that is 
wrong side up, when you are in the water with the said 
canoe. The next most difficult thing is to get into the 
canoe, after accomplishing triumph number one, and 
had it not been for my black friends that afternoon, I 
should not have done these things successfully, and 
there would be by now another haunted creek in West 
Africa, with a mud and blood bespattered ghost trying 
for ever to turn over the ghost of a little canoe. How- 
ever, all ended happily. We collected all our posses- 
sions, except the result of the day's fishing — the cat-fish 
— but we had had as much of him as we wanted, and so, 
adding a thankful mind to our contented ones, went 

None of us gave a verbatim report of the incident. 
I held my tongue for fear of not being allowed out 
fishing again, and I heard my men giving a fine account 
of a fearful fight, with accompanying prodigies of valour, 
that we had had with a witch crocodile. I fancy that 
must have been just their way of putting it, because it 
is not good form to be frightened by cat-fish on the 
West Coast, and I cannot for the life of me remember 
even having seen a witch crocodile that afternoon. 

I must, however, own that native methods of fishing 
are usually safe, though I fail to see what I had to do 
in producing the above accident. The usual method of 
dealing with a cat-fish is to bang him on the head with 
a club, and then break the spiny fins off, for they make 
nasty wounds that are difficult to heal, and very painful. 

The native fishing-craft is the dug-out canoe in its 
various local forms. The Accra canoe is a very safe 

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Falls on the Tongue River. 

[ To face page 84. 

Loan da Canoe with Mat Sails. 


and firm canoe for work of any sort except heavy cargo, 
and it is particularly good for surf ; it is, however, slower 
than many other kinds. The canoe that you can get the 
greatest pace out of is undoubtedly the Adooma, which 
is narrow and flat-bottomed, and simply flies over the 
water. The paddles used vary also with locality, and 
their form is a mere matter of local fashion, for they all 
do their work well. There is the leaf-shaped Kru 
paddle, the trident-shaped Accra, the long-lozenged 
Niger, and the long-handled, small-headed Igalwa 
paddle ; and with each of these forms the native, to the 
manner born, will send his canoe flying along with that 
unbroken sweep which I consider the most luxurious 
and perfect form of motion on earth. 

It is when it comes to sailing that the African is 
inferior. He does not sail half as much as he might, 
but still pretty frequently. The materials of which the 
sails are made vary immensely in different places, and 
the most beautiful are those at Loanda, which are made 
of small grass mats, with fringes, sewn together, and are 
of a warm rich sand-colour. Next in beauty comes the 
branch of a palm, or other tree, stuck in the bows, and 
least in beauty is the fisherman's own damaged waist- 
cloth. I remember it used to seem very strange to me 
at first, to see my companion in a canoe take off his 
clothing and make a sail with it, on a wind springing up 
behind us. The very strangest sail I ever sailed under 
was a black man's blue trousers, they were tied waist 
upwards to a cross-stick, the legs neatly crossed, and 
secured to the thwarts of the canoe. You cannot well 
tack, or carry out any neat sailing evolutions with any 
of the African sails, particularly with the last-named 
form. The shape of the African sail is almost always in 
appearance a triangle, and fastened to a cross-stick 
which is secured to an upright one. It is not the form, 
however, that prevents it from being handy, but the way 
it is put up, almost always without sheets, for river and 
lake work, and it is tied together with tie tie — bush 
rope. If you should personally be managing one, and 
trouble threatens, take my advice, and take the mast 


out one time, and deal with that tie tie palaver at your 
leisure. Never mind what people say about this method 
not being seaman-like — you survive. 

The mat sails used for sea-work are spread by a 
bamboo sprit. There is a single mast, to the head of 
which the sail is either hoisted by means of a small line 
run through the mast, or, more frequently, made fast 
with a seizing. Such a sail is worked by means of a 
sheet and a brace on the sprit, usually by one man, 
whose companion steers by a paddle over the stern ; 
sometimes, however, one man performs both duties. 
Now and again you will find the luff of the sail bow- 
lined out with another stick. This is most common 
round Sierra Leone. 

The appliances for catching fish are, firstly, fish traps, 
sometimes made of hollow logs of trees, with one end 
left open and the other closed. One of these is just 
dropped alongside the bank, left for a week or so, until a 
fish family makes a home in it, and then it is removed 
with a jerk. Then there are fish-baskets' made from 
split palm-stems tied together with tie tie ; they are cir- 
cular and conical, resembling our lobster pots and eel 
baskets, and they are usually baited with lumps of kank 
soaked in palm oil. Then there are drag nets made of 
pineapple fibre, one edge weighted with stones tied in 
bunches at intervals ; as a rule these run ten to twenty- 
five feet long, but in some places they are much longer. 
The longest I ever saw was when out fishing in the lovely 
harbour of San Paul de Loanda. This was over thirty 
feet and was weighted with bunches of clam shells, and 
made of European yarn, as indeed most nets are when 
this is procurable by the natives, and it was worked by 
three canoes which were being poled about, as is usual 
in Loanda Harbour. Then there is the universal hook 
and line, the hook either of European make or the 
simple bent pin of our youth. 

But my favourite method, and the one by which I 
got most of my fish up-rivers or in creeks is the stockade 
trap. These are constructed by driving in stakes close 
together, leaving one opening, not in the middle of the 


stockade, but towards the up-river end. In tidal waters 
these stockades are visited daily, at nearly low tide, for 
the high tide carries the fish in behind the stockade, and 
leaves them there on falling. Up-river, above tide water, 
the stockades are left for several days, in order to allow 
the fish to congregate. Then the opening is closed 
up, the fisher-women go inside and throw out the water 
and collect the fish. There is another kind of stockade 
that gives great sport. During the wet season the 
terrific rush of water tears off bits of bank in such 
rivers as the Congo, and Ogowe, where, owing to the 
continual fierce current of fresh water the brackish tide 
waters do not come far up the river, so that the banks 
are not shielded by a great network of mangrove roots. 
In the Ogowe a good many of the banks are composed 
of a stout clay, and so the pieces torn off hang together, 
and often go sailing out to sea, on the current, waving 
their bushes, and even trees, gallantly in the broad 
Atlantic, out of sight of land. Bits of the Congo Free 
State are great at sea-faring too, and owing to the 
terrific stream of the great Zaire, which spreads a belt of 
fresh water over the surface of the ocean 200 miles from 
land, ships fall in with these floating islands, with their 
trees still flourishing. The Ogowe is not so big as the 
Congo, but it is a very respectable stream even for the 
great continent of rivers, and it pours into the Atlantic, 
in the wet season, about 1,750,000 cubic feet of fresh 
water per second, on which float some of these islands. 
But by no means every island gets out to sea, many 
of them get into slack water round corners in the Delta 
region of the Ogowe and remain there, collecting all 
sorts of debris that comes down on the flood water, 
getting matted more and more firmly by the floating 
grass, every joint of which grows on the smallest oppor- 
tunity. In many places these floating islands are of 
considerable size ; one I heard of was large enough to 
induce a friend of mine to start a coffee plantation 
on it ; unfortunately the wretched thing came to pieces 
when he had cut down its trees and turned the soil up. 
And one I saw in the Karkola river, was a weird affair. 


It was in the river opposite our camp, and very slowly, 
but perceptibly, it went round and round in an orbit, 
although it was about half an acre in extent. A good 
many of these bits of banks do not attain to the honour 
of becoming islands, but get on to sand-banks in their 
early youth, near a native town, to the joy of the in- 
habitants, who forthwith go off to them, and drive round 
them a stockade of stakes, firmly anchoring them. 
Thousands of fishes then congregate round the little 
island inside the stockade, for the rich feeding in among 
the roots and grass, and the affair is left a certain time. 
Then the entrance to the stockade is firmly closed up, 
and the natives go inside and bale out the water, and 
catch the fish in baskets, tearing the island to pieces, 
with shouts and squeals of exultation. It's messy, but 
it's amusing, and you get tremendous catches. 

A very large percentage of fish traps are dedicated to 
the capture of shrimp and craw-fish, which the natives 
value highly when smoked, using them to make a sauce 
for their kank ; among these is the shrimp-basket. 
These baskets are tied on sticks laid out in parallel lines 
of considerable extent. They run about three inches in 
diameter, and their length varies with the place that is 
being worked. The stakes are driven into the mud, and 
to each stake is tied a basket with a line of tie tie, the 
basket acting as a hat to the stake when the tide is 
ebbing ; as the tide comes in, it lowers the basket into 
the current and carries into its open end large quantities 
of shrimps, which get entangled and packed by the force 
of the current into the tapering end of the basket, which 
is sometimes eight or ten feet from the mouth. You can 
always tell where there is a line of these baskets by 
seeing the line of attendant sea-gulls all solemnly 
arranged with their heads to win'ard, sea-gull fashion. 

Another device employed in small streams for the 
capture of either craw-fish or small fish is a line of 
calabashes, or earthen pots with narrow mouths ; these 
are tied on to a line, I won't say with tie tie, because I 
have said that irritating word so often, but still you 
understand they are ; this line is tied to a tree with 


more, and carried across the stream, sufficiently slack to 
submerge the pots, and then to a tree on the other bank, 
where it is secured with the same material. A fetish 
charm is then secured to it to take care that any one 
who interferes with the trap, save the rightful owner, 
will "swell up and burst," and then the trap is left 
for the night, the catch being collected in the morning. 

Single pots, well baited with bits of fish and with a 
suitable stone in to keep them steady, are frequently 
used alongside the bank. These are left for a day or 
more, and then the owner with great care crawls along 
the edge of the bank and claps on a lid and secures the 

Hand nets of many kinds are used. The most fre- 
quent form is the round net, weighted all round its outer 
edge. This is used by one man, and is thrown with 
great deftness and grace, in shallow waters. I suppose 
one may hardly call the long wreaths of palm and palm 
branches, used by the Loango and Kacongo coast native 
for fishing the surf with, nets, but they are most effective. 
When the Calemma (the surf) is not too bad, two or 
more men will carry this long thick wreath out into it, 
and then drop it and drag it towards the shore. The fish 
fly in front of it on to the beach, where they fall victims 
to the awaiting ladies, with their baskets. Another very 
quaint set of devices is employed by the Kruboys when- 
ever they go to catch their beloved land and shore crabs. 
I remember once thinking I had providentially lighted 
on a beautiful bit of Ju Ju ; the whole stretch of mud 
beach had little lights dotted over it on the ground. I 
investigated. They were crab-traps. " Bottle of Beer," 
"The Prince of Wales," "Jane Ann," and "Pancake" had 
become — by means we will not go into here — possessed 
of bits of candle, and had cut them up and put in front 
of them pieces of wood in an ingenious way. The crab, 
a creature whose intelligence is not sufficiently appre- 
ciated, fired with a scientific curiosity, went to see what 
the light was made of, and then could not escape, or 
perhaps did not try to escape, but stood spell-bound 
at the beauty of the light ; anyhow, they fell victims to 


their spirit of inquiry. I have also seen drop-traps put 
for crabs round their holes. In this case the sense of 
the beauty of light in the crab is not relied on, and once 
in he is shut in, and cannot go home and communicate 
the result of his investigations to his family. 

Yet, in spite of all these advantages and appliances 
above cited, I grieve to say the West African, all along 
the Coast,descends to the unsportsmanlike trick of poison- 
ing. Certain herbs are bruised and thrown into the 
water, chiefly into lagoons and river-pools. The method 
is effective, but I should doubt whether it is wholesome. 
These herbs cause the fish to rise to the surface stupe- 
fied, when they are scooped up with a calabash. Other 
herbs cause the fish to lie at the bottom, also stupefied, 
and the water in the pool is thrown out, and they are 

More as a pastime than a sport I must class the 
shooting of the peculiar hopping mud-fish by the small 
boys with bows and arrows, but this is the only way you 
can secure them as they go about star-gazing with their 
eyes on the tops of their heads, instead of attending to 
baited hooks, and their hearing (or whatever it is) is so 
keen that they bury themselves in the mud-banks too 
rapidly for you to net them. Spearing is another very 
common method of fishing. It is carried on at night, 
a bright light being stuck in the bow of the canoe, 
while the spearer, crouching, screens his eyes from the 
glare with a plantain leaf, and drops his long-hafted 
spear into the fish as they come up to look at the light. 
It is usually the big bream that are caught in this way 
out in the sea, and the carp up in fresh water. 

The manners and customs of many West African 
fishes are quaint. I have never yet seen that fish the 
natives often tell me about that is as big as a man, only 
thicker, and which walks about on its fins at night, in 
the forest, so I cannot vouch for it ; nor for that other 
fish that hates the crocodile, and follows her up and 
destroys her eggs, and now and again dedicates itself 
to its hate, and goes down her throat, and then spreads 
out its spiny fins and kills her. 


The fish I know personally are interesting in quieter 
ways. As for instance the strange electrical fish, which 
sometimes have sufficient power to kill a duck and 
which are much given to congregating in sunken boats, 
causing much trouble when the boat has to be floated 
again, because the natives won't go near them, to bale 
her out. 

Then there is that deeply trying creature the Ning 
Ning fish, who, when you are in some rivers in fresh 
water and want to have a quiet night's rest, just as you 
have tucked in your mosquito bar carefully and success- 
fully, comes alongside and serenades you, until you have 
to get up and throw things at it with a prophetic feeling, 
amply supported by subsequent experience, that hordes 
of mosquitos are busily ensconcing themselves inside 
your mosquito bar. What makes the Ning Ning — it 
is called after its idiotic song — so maddening is that it 
never seems to be where you have thrown the things at 
it. You could swear it was close to the bow of the canoe 
when you shied that empty soda-water bottle or that 
ball of your precious india-rubber at it, but instantly 
comes " ning, ning, ning " from the stern of the canoe. 
It is a ventriloquist or goes about in shoals, I do not 
know which, for the latter and easier explanation seems 
debarred by their not singing in chorus ; the perform- 
ance is undoubtedly a solo ; any one experienced in this 
fish soon finds out that it is not driven away or de- 
stroyed by an artillery of missiles, but merely lies low 
until its victim has got under his mosquito curtain, and 
resettled his mosquito palaver — and then back it comes 
with its "ning ning." 

A similar affliction is the salt-water drum-fish, with 
its " bum-bum." Loanda Harbour abounds with these, 
and so does Chiloango. In the bright moonlight 
nights I have looked overside and seen these fish in a 
wreath round the canoe, with their silly noses against 
the side, " bum-bumming " away ; whether they admire 
the canoe, or whether they want it to come on and fight 
it out, I do not know, because my knowledge of the 
different kinds of fishes and of their internal affairs is 


derived from Dr. Giinther's great work, and that con- 
tains no section on ichthyological psychology. The 
West African natives have, I may say, a great deal of 
very curious information on the thoughts of fishes, but, 
much as I liked those good people, I make it a hard 
and fast rule to hold on to my common-sense and keep 
my belief for religious purposes when it comes to these 
deductions from natural phenomena — not that I display 
this mental attitude externally, for there is always in 
their worst and wildest fetish notions an underlying 
element of truth. The fetish of fish is too wide a sub- 
ject to enter on here, it acts well because it gives a close 
season to river and lagoon fish ; the natives round Lake 
Ayzingo, for example, saying that if the first fishes that 
come up into the lake in the great dry season are killed, 
the rest of the shoal turn back, so on the arrival of this 
vanguard they are treated most carefully, talked to with 
" a sweet mouth," and given things. The fishes that 
form these shoals are Hemichromis fasciatus and Chromis 

I know no more charming way of spending an after- 
noon than to leisurely paddle alone to the edge of the 
Ogowe sand bank in the dry season, and then lie and 
watch the ways of the water- world below. If you keep 
quiet, the fishes take no notice of you, and go on with 
their ordinary avocations, under your eyes, hunting, and 
feeding, and playing, and fighting, happily and cheerily, 
until one of the dreaded raptorial fishes appears upon 
the scene, and then there is a general scurry. Dreadful 
warriors are the little fishes that haunt sand banks 
(Alestis KingsleycE) and very bold, for when you put 
your hand down in the water, with some crumbs, they 
first make two or three attempts to frighten it, by sidling 
up at it and butting, but on finding there's no fight in 
the thing, they swagger into the palm of your hand and 
take what is to be got with an air of conquest ; but 
before the supply is exhausted, there always arises a 
row among themselves, and the gallant bulls, some two 
inches long, will spin round and butt each other for a 
second or so, and then spin round again, and flap each 


other with their tails, their little red-edged fins and gill- 
covers growing crimson with fury. I never made out 
how you counted points in these fights, because no one 
ever seemed a scale the worse after even the most 
desperate duels. 

Most of the West Coast tribes are inveterate fisher- 
men. The Gold Coast native regards fishing as a low 
pursuit, more particularly oyster-fishing, or I should say 
oyster-gathering, for they are collected chiefly from the 
lower branches of the mangrove-trees ; this occupation 
is, indeed, regarded as being only fit for women, and 
among all tribes the villages who turn their entire 
attention to fishing are regarded as low down in the social 
scale. This may arise from fetish reasons, but the idea 
certainly gains support from the conduct of the indivi- 
dual fisherman. Do not imagine Brother Anglers, that 
I am hinting that the Gentle Art is bad for the moral 
nature of people like you and me, but I fear it is bad for 
the African. You see, the African, like most of us, can 
resist anything but temptation — he will resist attempts 
to reform him, attempts to make him tell the truth, 
attempts to clothe, and keep him tidy, &c, and he will 
resist these powerfully ; but give him real temptation and 
he succumbs, without the European preliminary struggle. 
He has by nature a kleptic bias, and you see being 
out at night fishing, he has chances — temptations, of 
succumbing to this — and so you see a man who has left 
his home at evening with only the intention of spearing 
fish in his mind, goes home in the morning pretty often 
with his missionary's ducks, his neighbours' plantains, 
and a few odd trifles from the traders' beaches, in his 
canoe, and the outer world says, " Dem fisherman, all 
time, all same for one, with tief man." x 

The Accras, who are employed right down the whole 
West Coast, thanks to the valuable education given them 
by the Basel Mission as cooks, carpenters, and coopers, 
cannot resist fishing, let their other avocations be what 
they may. A friend of mine the other day had a new 
Accra cook. The man cooked well, and my friend 
1 Translation : " All fishermen are thieves." 


vaunted himself, and was content for the first week. 
At the beginning of the second week the cooking was 
still good, but somehow or other, there was just the 
suspicion of a smell of fish about the house. The next 
day the suspicion merged into certainty. The third 
day the smell was insupportable, and the atmosphere 
unfit to support human life, but obviously healthy for 

The cook was summoned, and asked by Her Britannic 
Majesty's representative " Where that smell came from ? " 
He said he " could not smell it, and he did not know." 
Fourth day, thorough investigation of the premises re- 
vealed the fact that in the back-yard there was a large 
clothes-horse which had been sent out by my friend's 
wife to air his clothes ; this was literally converted into 
a screen by strings of fish in the process of drying, i.e., 
decomposing in the sun. 

The affair was eliminated from the domestic circle and 
cast into the Ocean by seasoned natives ; and awful 
torture in this world and the next promised to the cook 
if he should ever again embark in the fish trade. The 
smell gradually faded from the house, but the poor cook, 
bereaved of his beloved pursuit, burst out all over in 
boils, and took to religious mania and drink, and so had 
to be sent back to Accra, where I hope he lives happily, 
surrounded by his beloved objects. 



Wherein the student of Fetish determines to make things quite 
clear this time, with results that any sage knowing the subject 
and the student would have safely prophesied ; to which are 
added some remarks concerning the position of ancestor 
worship in West Africa. 

THE final object of all human desire is a knowledge of 
the nature of God. The human methods, or religions, 
employed to gain this object are divisible into three 
main classes, 

Firstly, the submission to and acceptance of a direct 
divine message ; 

Secondly, the attempt by human intellectual power to 
separate the conception of God from material phenomena, 
and regard Him as a thing apart and unconditioned ; 

Thirdly, the attempt to understand Him as manifest 
in natural phenomena. 

I personally am constrained to follow this last and 
humblest method, and accept as its exposition Spinoza's 
statement of it, " Since without God nothing can exist or be 
conceived, it is evident that all natural phenomena in- 
volve and express the conception of God, as far as their 
essence and perfection extends. So we have a greater 
and more perfect knowledge of God in proportion to 
our knowledge of natural phenomena. Conversely 
(since the knowledge of an effect through a cause is the 
same thing as the knowledge of a particular property of a 
cause), the greater our knowledge of natural phenomena 

96 FETISH chap. 

the more perfect is our knowledge of the essence of God, 
which is the cause of all things." 1 But I have a deep 
respect for all other forms of religion and for all men 
who truly believe, for in them clearly there is this one 
great desire of the knowledge of the nature of God, and 
" Ein guter Mensch in seinetn dunkeln Drange 1st sick des 
rechten Weges wohl bewuszt!' Nevertheless the most 
tolerant human mind is subject to a feeling of irritation 
over the methods whereby a fellow-creature strives to 
attain his end, particularly if those methods are a sort of 
heresy to his own, and therefore it is a most un- 
pleasant thing for any religious-minded person to 
speak of a religion unless he either profoundly believes 
or disbelieves in it. For, if he does the one, he has the 
pleasure of praise ; if he does the other, he has the 
pleasure of war, but the thing in between these is a thing 
that gives neither pleasure ; it is like quarrelling with 
one's own beloved relations. Thus it is with Fetish and 
me. I cannot say I either disbelieve or believe in it, 
for, on the one hand, I clearly see it is a religion of the third 

( class ; but, on the other, I know that Fetish is a religion 
that is regarded by my fellow white men as the em- 
bodiment of all that is lowest and vilest in man — not 

f altogether without cause. Before speaking further on it, 
however, I must say what I mean by Fetish, for " the 

. word of late has got ill sorted." 

I mean by Fetish the religion of the natives of the 
Western Coast of Africa, where they have not been in- 
fluenced either by Christianity or Mohammedanism. I 
sincerely wish there were another name than Fetish 
which we could use for it, but the natives have different 
names for their own religion in different districts, and I 
do not know what other general name I could suggest, 
for I am sure that the other name sometimes used in 
place of Fetish, namely, Ju Ju, is, for all the fine wild 
sound of it, only a modification of the French word for 
toy or doll, joujou. The French claim to have visited 
West Africa in the fourteenth century, prior to the 
Portuguese, and whether this claim can be sustained on 
1 Of the Divine Law, Tractahcs Theologico Politicus^ Spinoza. 


historic evidence or no, it is certain that the French have 
been on the coast in considerable numbers since the 
fifteenth century, and no doubt have long called the 
little objects they saw the natives valuing so strangely 
joujou, just as I have heard many a Frenchman do down 
there in my time. Therefore, believing Ju Ju to mean 
doll or toy, I do not think it is so true a word as Fetish ; 
and, after all, West Africa has a prior right to the use 
of this word Fetish, for it has grown up out of the word 
Feitico used by the Portuguese navigators who redis- 
covered West Africa with all its wealth and worries for 
modern Europe. These worthy voyagers, noticing the 
veneration paid by Africans to certain objects, trees, fish, 
idols and so on, very fairly compared these objects with 
the amulets, talismans, charms, and little images of 
saints they themselves used, and called those things 
similarly used by the Africans Feitico, a word derived 
from the Latin factitius, in the sense magically artful. 
Modern French and English writers have adopted this 
word from the Portuguese ; but it is a modern word 
in its present use. It is not in Johnson, and the term 
Fetichisme was introduced by de Brosses in his re- 
markable book, Du Culte des Dieux fetiches, 1760; but 
doubtless, as Professor Tylor points out, it has obtained 
a great currency from Comte's use of it to denote a 
general theory of primitive religion. Professor Tylor, 
most unfortunately for us who are interested in West 
African religion, confines the use of the word to one 
department of his theory of animism only — namely to 
the doctrine of spirits embodied in, or attached to or 
conveying influence through certain material objects. 1 
I do not in the least deny Professor Tylor's right to 
use the word Fetish 2 in that restricted sense in his 

1 Primitive Culture, E. B. Tylor, p. 144. 

2 Professor Tylor kindly allowed me to place this statement 
before him, and he says that as the word Fetish, with the sense of 
the use of bones, claws, stones, and such objects as receptacles of 
spiritual influences, has had nearly two centuries of established 
usage, it would not be easy to set it aside, and he advises me to use 
the term West African religion, or in some way make my meaning 
clear without expecting to upset the established nomenclature of 
comparative ethnology. 


98 FETISH chap. 

general study of comparative religion. I merely wish to 
mention that you cannot use it in this restricted sense, 
but want the whole of his grand theory of animism 
wherewith to describe the religion of the West Africans. 
For although there is in that religion a heavy percentage 
of embodied spirits, there is also a heavier percentage of 
unembodied spirits — spirits that have no embodiment in 
matter, and spirits that only occasionally embody them- 
selves in matter. 

Take, for example, the gods of the Ewe and Tshi. 1 
There is amongst them Tando, the native high god of 
Ashantee. He appears to his priesthood as a giant, 
tawny-skinned, lank-haired, and wearing the Ashantee 
robe. But when visiting the laity, on whom he is ex- 
ceedingly hard, he comes in pestilence and tempest, or, 
for more individual village visitations, as a small and 
miserable boy, desolate and crying for help and kindness, 
which, when given to him, Tando repays by killing off 
his benefactors and their fellow-villagers with a certain 
disease. This trick, I may remark, is not confined to 
Tando, for several other West African gods use it when 
sacrifices to them are in arrears ; and I am certain it is 
more at the back of outcast children being neglected 
than is either sheer indifference to suffering or cruelty. 
Because, fearing the disease, your native will be far more 
likely to remember he is in debt to the god and go 
and pay an instalment, than to take in that child 
whom he thinks is the god who has come to punish. 

But you have only to look through Ellis's important 
works, the Tshi-speaking, Ewe-speaking, and Yoruba- 
speaking peoples of the West Coast of Africa, to find 
many instances of the gods of Fetish who do not require 
a material object to manifest themselves in. And I, 
while in West Africa, have often been struck by inci- 
dents that have made this point clear to me. When 
I have been out with native companions after nightfall, 
they pretty nearly always saw an apparition of some 

1 This word is pronounced by the natives and by people knowing 
them, Cheuwe, as Ellis undoubtedly knew, but presumably he spelt 
it Tshi to please the authorities. 


sort, frequently apparitions of different sorts, in our path 
ahead. Then came a pause, and after they had seen the 
apparition vanish, on we went — not cheerily, however, 
until we were well past the place where it had been seen. 
This place they closely examined, and decided whether 
it was an Abambo, or Manu, or whatever name these 
spirit classes had in their local language, or whether it 
was something worse that had been there, such as a 
Sasabonsum or Ombuiri. 

They knew which it was from the physical condition 
of the spot. Either there was nothing there but ordi- 
nary path stuff; or there was white ash, or there was a 
log or rock, or tree branch, and the reason for the dif- 
ferent emotions with which they regarded this latter was 
very simple, for it had been an inferior class spirit, one 
that their charms and howled incantations could guard 
them against. When there was ash, it had been a witch 
destroyed by the medicine they had thrown at it, or a 
medium class spirit they could get protection from " in 
town." But if " he left no ash " the rest of our march 
was a gloomy one ; it was a bad business, and unless 
the Fetish authorities in town chose to explain that it 
was merely a demand for so much white calico, or a 
goat, &c, some one of our party would certainly get ill. 

Well do I remember our greatest terror when out at 
night on a forest path. I believe him to have been 
a Sasabonsum, but he was very widely distributed — that 
is to say we dreaded him on the forest paths round 
Mungo Mah Lobeh ; we confidently expected to meet 
him round Calabar ; and, to my disgust, for he was a 
hindrance, when I thought I had got away from his 
distribution zone, down in the Ogowe region, coming 
home one night with a Fan hunter from Fula to Kangwe, 
I saw some one coming down the path towards us, and 
my friend threw himself into the dense bush beside the 
path so as to give the figure a wide berth. It was the 
old symptom. You see what we object to in this spirit 
is that one side of him is rotting and putrifying, the 
other sound and healthy, and it all depends on which 
side of him you touch whether you see the dawn again 

H 2 


too FETISH chap. 

or no. Such being the case, and African bush paths 
being narrow, this spirit helps to make evening walks 
unpopular, for there are places in every bush path where, 
if you meet him, you must brush against him — places 
where the wet season's rains have made the path a 
narrow ditch, with clay incurved walls above your head 
— places where the path turns sharply round a corner — 
places where it runs between rock walls. Such being 
the case, the risk of rubbing against his rotting side is 
held to be so great that it is best avoided by stay- 
ing at home in the village with your wives and 
families, and playing the tom-tom or the orchid-fibre- 
stringed harp, or, if you are a bachelor, sitting in the 
village club-house listening to the old ones talking like 
retired Colonels. Yet, however this may be, I should 
hesitate to call this half-rotten individual "a material 
object." Sometimes we had merry laughs after these 
meetings, for he was only So-and-so from the village — 
it was not him. Sometimes we had cold chills down 
the back, for we lost sight of him ; under our eyes he 
went and he left no ash. 

Take again Mbuiri of the Mpongwe, who comes in 
the form usually of a man ; or Nkala, who comes as a 
crab ; or the great Nzambi of the Fjort — they leave no 
ash — and so on. This subject of apparition forms is a 
very interesting one, and requires more investigation. 
For such gods as Nzambi Mpungu do not appear to 
human beings on earth at all, except in tempest and 
pestilence. The great gods next in order leave no ash. 
The witch, if he or she be destroyed, does leave ash, and 
the ordinary middle and lower class spirits leave the 
thing they have been in, so unaltered by their use of it 
that no one but a witch doctor can tell whether or no it 
has been possessed by a spirit. 

You see therefore Fetish is in a way complex and 
cannot be got into " worship of a material object." There 
is no worship in West Africa of a material not so pos- 
sessed, for material objects are regarded as in themselves 
so low down in the scale of things that nothing of 
the human grade would dream of worshipping them. 



Moreover, apart from these apparitions, I do not think 
you can accurately use the word Fetish in its restricted 
sense to include the visions seen by witch-doctors, or 
incantations made of words possessing power in them- 
selves, and yet these things are part and parcel of 
Fetish. In fact, not being a comparative ethnologist, 
but a student of West African religion, I wish to good- 
ness those comparative ethnologists would get another 
word of their own, instead of using our own old West 
Coast one. 

It is, however, far easier to state what Fetish is not, 
than to state what it is. Although a Darwinian to the 
core, I doubt if evolution in a neat and tidy perpen- 
dicular line, with Fetish at the bottom and Christianity 
at the top, represents the true state of things. It seems 
to me — I have no authority to fortify my position with, 
so it is only me — that things are otherwise in this 
matter. That there are lines of development in religious 
ideas, and that no form of religious idea is a thing 
restricted to one race, I will grant ; but if you will make 
a scientific use of your imagination, most carefully on 
the lines laid down for that exercise by Professor 
Tyndall, I think you would see that the higher form of 
the Fetish idea is Brahmanism ; and that the highest 
possible form it could attain to is shown by two passages 
in the works of absolutely white people to have already 
been reached — first in that passage from a poem by an 
author whose name I have never known, though I have 
known the lines these five-and-twenty years — 

" God of the granite and the rose, 
Soul of the lily and the bee, 
The mighty tide of being flows 
In countless channels, Lord, from Thee. 
It springs to life in grass and flowers, 
Through every range of being runs, 
And from Creation's mighty towers, 
Its glory flames in stars and suns "— 

and secondly in this statement by Spinoza — " By the 
help of God, I mean the fixed and unchangeable order 
of nature, or chain of natural events, for I have said 

102 FETISH chap. 

before and shown elsewhere that the universal laws of 
nature, according to which all things exist and are 
determined, are only another name for the eternal 
decrees of God, which always involves eternal truth and 
necessity, so that to say everything happens according 
to natural laws, and to say everything is ordained by 
the decree and ordinance of God, is to say the same 
thing. Now, since the power in nature is identical with 
the power of God, by which alone all things happen and 
are determined, it follows that whatsoever man as a part 
of nature provides himself with to aid and preserve his 
existence, or whatsoever nature affords him without his 
help, is given him solely by the Divine power acting 
either through human nature or through external cir- 
cumstances. So whatever human nature can furnish 
itself with by its own efforts to preserve its existence 
may be fitly termed the inward aid of God, whereas 
whatever else accrues to man's profit from outward 
causes may be called the external aid of God." * 

Now both these utterances are magnificent Fetish, 
and because I accept them as true, I have said I neither 
believe nor disbelieve in Fetish. I could quote many 
more passages from acknowledged philosophers, par- 
ticularly from Goethe. If you want, for example, to 
understand the position of man in Nature according to 
Fetish, there is, as far as I know, no clearer statement of 
it made than is made by Goethe in his superb Prome- 
theus. By all means read it, for you cannot know how 
things really stand until you do. 

This was brought home to me very keenly when I was 
first out in West Africa. I had made friends with a 
distinguished witch doctor, or, more correctly speaking, 
he had made friends with me. I was then living in a 
deserted house the main charm of which was that it was 
the house that Mr. H. M. Stanley had lived in while he 
was waiting for a boat home after his first crossing 
Africa. This charm had not kept the house tidy, and it 
was a beetlesome place by day, while after nightfall, if 
you wanted to see some of the best insect society in 
1 The Vocation of the Hebrews, Spinoza. 


Africa, and have regular Walpurgis all round, you had 
only got to light a lamp ; but these things were advan- 
tageous to an insect collector like myself, therefore I 
lodge no complaint against the firm of traders to whom 
that house belongs. Well, my friend the witch doctor 
used to call on me, and I apologetically confess I first 
thought his interest in me arose from material objects. 
I wronged that man in thought, as I have many others, 
for one night, about 1 1 p.m., I heard a pawing at the 
shutters — my African friends don't knock. I got up 
and opened the door, and there he was. I made some 
observations, which I regret now, about tobacco at that 
time of night, and he said, " No. You be big man, 
suppose pusson sick ? " I acknowledged the soft im- 
peachment. " Pusson sick too much ; pusson live for 
die. You fit for come ? " " Fit," said I. " Suppose you 
come, you no fit to talk ? " said he. " No fit," said I, 
with a shrewd notion it was one of my Portuguese 
friends who was ill and who did not want a blazing 
blister on, a thing that was inevitable if you called in 
the local regular white medical man, so, picking up a 
medicine-case, I went out into the darkness with my 
darker friend. After getting outside the closed ground 
he led the way towards the forest, and I thought it was 
some one sick at the Roman Catholic mission. On we 
went down the path that might go there ; but when we 
got to where you turn off for it, he took no heed, but 
kept on, and then away up over a low hill and down 
into deeper forest still, I steering by his white cloth. 
But Africa is an alarming place to walk about in at 
night, both for a witch doctor who believes in all his 
local forest devils, and a lady who believes in all the 
local material ones, so we both got a good deal chipped 
and frayed and frightened one way and another ; but 
nothing worse happened than our walking up against a 
python, which had thoughtfully festooned himself across 
the path, out of the way of ground ants, to sleep off a 
heavy meal. My eminent friend, in the inky darkness 
and his hurry to reach his patient, failed to see this, and 
went fair up against it. I, being close behind, did ditto. 


Then my leader ducked under the excited festoon and 
went down the path at headlong speed, with me after 
him, alike terrified at losing sight of his guiding cloth 
and at the python, whom we heard going away into the 
bush with that peculiar-sounding crackle a big snake 
gives when he is badly hurried. 

Finally we reached a small bush village, and on the 
ground before one of the huts was the patient extended, 
surrounded by unavailing, wailing women. He was 
suffering from a disease common in West Africa, but 
amenable to treatment by European drugs, which I gave 
to the medical man, who gave them to his patient with 
proper incantations and a few little things of his own 
that apparently did not hinder their action. As soon as 
the patient had got relief, my friend saw me home, and 
when we got in, I said, Why did you do this, that and 
the other, as is usual with me, and he sat down, looked 
far away, and talked for an hour, softly, wordily and 
gently ; and the gist of what that man talked was 
Goethe's Prometheus. I recognised it after half an hour, 
and when he had done, said, " You got that stuff from a 
white man." " No, sir," he said, " that no be white man 
fash, that be country fash, white man no fit to savee our 
fash." " Aren't they, my friend ? " I said ; and we parted 
for the night, I the wiser for it, he the richer. 

Now, I pray you, do not think I am saying that there 
is a " wisdom religion " in Fetish, or anything like that, 
or that Fetish priests are Spinozas and Goethes — far 
from it. All that it seems to me to be is a perfectly 
natural view of Nature, and one that, if you take it up 
with no higher form of mind in you than a shrewd, 
logical one alone, will, if you carry it out, lead you 
necessarily to paint a white chalk rim round one eye, 
eat your captive, use Woka incantations for diseases, 
and dance and howl all night repeatedly, to the awe of 
your fellow-believers, and the scandal of Mohammedan 
gentlemen who have a revealed religion. 

Moreover, the mind-form which gets hold of this 
truth that is in all things, makes a great difference in the 
form in which the religion works out. For instance, to 


a superficial observer, it would hardly seem possible 
that a Persian and a Mahdist were followers of the same 
religion, or that a Spaniard and an English Broad 
Churchman were so. And yet it seems to me that it is 
only this class of difference that exists between the 
African, the Brahmanist, and the Shintoist. 

Another and more fundamental point to be considered 
is the influence of physical environment on religions, 
particularly these Nature religions. 

The Semitic mind, which had never been kept quite 
in its proper place by natural difficulties, gave to man 
in the scheme of Creation a pre-eminence that deeply 
influences Europeans, who have likewise not been kept 
in their place owing to the environments of the temper- 
ate zone. On the other hand, the African race has had 
about the worst set of conditions possible to bring out 
the higher powers of man. He has been surrounded by 
a set of terrific natural phenomena, combined with a 
good food supply and a warm and equable climate. 
These things are not enough in themselves to account 
for his low-culture condition, but they are factors that 
must be considered. Then, undoubtedly, the nature of 
the African's mind is one of the most important points. 
It may seem a paradox to say of people who are always 
seeing visions that they are not visionaries ; but they 
are not. 

The more you know the African, the more you study 
his laws and institutions, the more you must recognise 
that the main characteristic of his intellect is logical, 
and you see how in all things he uses this absolutely 
sound but narrow thought-form. He is not a dreamer, 
nor a doubter ; everything is real, very real, horribly 
real to him. It is impossible for me to describe it 
clearly, but the quality of the African mind is strangely 
uniform. This may seem strange to those who read 
accounts of wild and awful ceremonials, or of the 
African's terror at white man's things ; but I believe 
you will find all people experienced in dealing with 
uncultured Africans will tell you that this alarm and 
brief wave of curiosity is merely external, for the African 


knows the moment he has time to think it over, what 
that white man's thing really is, namely, either a white 
man's Ju Ju or a devil. 

It is this power of being able logically to account for 
everything that is, I believe, at the back of the tremend- 
ous permanency of Fetish in Africa, and the cause of 
many of the relapses into it by Africans converted to 
other religions ; it is also the explanation of the fact 
that white men who live in districts where death and 
danger are everyday affairs, under a grim pall of bore- 
dom, are liable to believe in Fetish, though ashamed of 
so doing. For the African, whose mind has been soaked 
in Fetish during his early and most impressionable years, 
the voice of Fetish is almost irresistible when affliction 
comes on him. Sudden dangers or terror he can face 
with his new religion, because he is not quick at think- 
ing. But give him time to think when under the hand 
of adversity, and the old explanation that answered it 
all comes back. I know no more distressing thing than 
to see an African convert brought face to face with that 
awful thing we are used to, the problem of an omnipot- 
ent God and a suffering world. This does not worry 
the African convert until it hits him personally in grief 
and misery. When it does, and he turns and calls upon 
the God he has been taught will listen, pity and answer, 
his use of what the scoffers at the converted African 
call " catch phrases " is horribly heartrending to me, for 
I know how real, terribly real, the whole thing is to him, 
and I therefore see the temptation to return to those 
old gods — gods from whom he never expected pity, 
presided over by a god that does not care. All that he 
had to do with them was not to irritate them, to pro- 
pitiate them, to buy their services when wanted, and, 
above all, to dodge and avoid them, while he fought it 
out and managed devils at large. Risky work, but a 
man is as good as a devil any day if he only takes 
proper care ; and even if any devil should get him un- 
aware — kill him bodily — he has the satisfaction of 
knowing he will have the power to make it warm for 
that devil when they meet on the other side. 


There is something alluring in this, I think, to any 
make of human mind, but particularly so to the logical, 
intensely human one possessed by the West African. 
Therefore, when wearied and worn out by confronting 
things that he cannot reconcile, and disappointed by 
unanswered prayers, he turns back to his old belief en- 
tirely, or modifies the religion he has been taught until 
it fits in with Fetish, and is gradually absorbed by it. 

It is often asked whether Christianity or Mohamme- 
danism is to possess Africa — as if the choice of Fate lay 
between these two things alone. I do not think it is so, 
at least it is not wise for a mere student to ignore the 
other thing in the affair, Fetish, which is as it were a 
sea wherein all things suffer a sea change. For remem- 
ber it is not Christianity alone that becomes tinged with 
Fetish, or gets engulfed and dominated by it. Islam, 
when it strikes the true heart of Africa, the great Forest 
Belt region, fares little better though it is more recent 
than Christianity, and though it is preached by men 
who know the make of the African mind. Islam is in 
its bluth-period now in all the open parts, even on the 
desert regions of Africa from its Mediterranean shore 
to below the Equator, but so far it has beaten up against 
the Forest Belt like a sea on a sand beach. It has 
crossed the Forest Belt by the Lakes, it has penetrated 
it in channels, but in those channels the waters of Islam 
are, recent as their inroad there is, brackish. 

Therefore I make no pretence at prophesying which 
of these great revealed religions will ultimately possess 
Africa ; but it is an interesting point to notice what has 
been the reason of the great power of immediate appeal 
to the African which they both possess. 

The African has a great over-God, and below him 
lesser spirits, including man ; but the African has not in 
West Africa, nor so far as I have been able to ascertain 
elsewhere in the whole Continent, a God-man, a thing 
that directly connects man with the great over-God. 
This thing appeals to the African when it is presented 
to him by Christianity and Islam. 

It is, I am quite aware, not doctrinally true to say 


that Islam offers him a God-man ; nevertheless in 
Mohammed practically it does so, and that too in a more 
easily believable form — by easily I do not mean that it 
is necessarily true. Moreover it minimises the danger 
of death in a more definite way, more in keeping with 
his own desires, and it is more reconcilable with his 
conscience in the treatment of life as he has to live it. 
Most of the higher class Africans are traders. Islam 
gives an easier, clearer line of rectitude to a trader than 
its great rival in Africa — under African conditions. 

There are many who will question whether conscience 
is a sufficiently large factor in an African mind for us to 
think of taking it into account, but whether you call it 
conscience, or religious bent, or fear, the factor is a large 
one. An African cannot say, as so many Europeans 
evidently easily can, " Oh, that is all right from a religious 
point of view, but one must be practical, you know ; " 
and it is this factor that makes me respect the African 
deeply and sympathise with him, for I have this same 
unmanageable hindersome thing in my own mind, which 
you can call anything you like ; I myself call it honour. 
Now conscience when conditioned by Christianity is an 
exceedingly difficult thing for a trader to manage 
satisfactorily to himself. A mass of compromises have 
to be made with the world, and a man who is always 
making compromises gets either sick of them or sick of 
the thing that keeps on nagging at him about them, or 
he becomes merely gaseous-minded all round. There 
are some few in all races of men who can think 

" That conscience, like a restive horse, 
Will stumble if you check his course, 
But ride him with an easy rein, 
And rub him down with worldly gain, 
He'll carry you through thick and thin, 
vSafe, although dirty, 'till you win," 

but such men are in Africa a very small minority, and so 
it falls out that most men engaged in trade revert to 
Fetish, or become lax as Church members, or embrace 


I think, if you will consider the case, you will see that 
the workability of Islam is one of the chief reasons of its 
success in Africa. It is, from many African points of 
view, a most inconvenient religion, with its Rahmadhizan, 
bound every now and again to come in the height of the 
dry season ; its restrictions on alcoholic drinks and 
gambling ; but, on the whole it is satisfying to the African 
conscience. Moreover, like Christianity, it lifts man into 
a position of paramount importance in Creation. He is 
the thing God made the rest for. I have often heard 
Africans say, " It does a man good to know God loves 
him ; it makes him proud too much." Well, at any rate 
it is pleasanter than Fetish, where man, in company with 
a host of spirits, is fighting for his own hand, in an arena 
before the gods, eternally. 

We will now turn to the consideration of the status of 
the human soul in pure Fetish, that is to say in Fetish 
that is common to all the different schools of West 
African Fetishism. 

What strikes a European when studying it is the lack 
of gaps between things. To the African there is per- 
haps no gap between the conception of spirit and matter, 
animate or inanimate. It is all an affair of grade — not 
of essential difference in essence. At the head of ex- 
istence are those beings who can work without using 
matter, either as a constant associate or as an occasional 
tool — do it all themselves, as an African would say. 
Beneath this grade there are many grades of spirits, 
who occasionally or habitually, as in the case of the 
human grade, are associated with matter, and at the 
lower end of the scale is what we call matter, but 
which I believe the West African regards as the same 
sort of stuff as the rest, only very low — so low that 
practically it doesn't matter ; but it is spirits, the things 
that cause all motion, all difficulties, dangers and cala- 
mities, that do matter and must be thought about, 
for they are real things whether " they live for thing " 
or no. 

The African and myself are also in a fine fog about 
form, but I will spare you that point, for where that thing 

no FETISH chap. 

comes from, often so quickly and silently, and goes, often 
so quickly and silently, too, under our eyes, everlastingly, 
that thing on which we all so much depend at every 
moment of our lives, that thing we are quite as conscious 
of as light and darkness, heat or cold, yet which makes 
a thing no heavier in one shape than in another — is 
altogether too large a subject to touch on now. Yet, 
remember it is a most important part of practical Fetish, 
for on it depends divination and heaps of such like 
matters, that are parts of both the witch doctor and the 
Fetish priest's daily work. 

One of the fundamental doctrines of Fetish is that the 
connection of a certain spirit with a certain mass of matter, 
a material object, is not permanent ; the African will 
point out to you a lightning-stricken tree and tell you 
that its spirit has been killed ; he will tell you when the 
cooking pot has gone to bits that it has lost its spirit ; 
if his weapon fails it is because some one has stolen or 
made sick its spirit by means of witchcraft. In every 
action of his daily life he shows you how he lives with a 
great, powerful spirit world around him. You will see 
him before starting out to hunt or fight rubbing medicine 
into his weapons to strengthen the spirits within them, 
talking to them the while ; telling them what care he has 
taken of them, reminding them of the gifts he has given 
them, though those gifts were hard for him to give, and 
begging them in the hour of his dire necessity not to 
fail him. You will see him bending over the face of 
a river talking to its spirit with proper incantations, 
asking it when it meets a man who is an enemy 
of his to upset his canoe, or drown him, or asking it 
to carry down with it some curse to the village below 
which has angered him, and in a thousand other ways 
he shows you what he believes if you will watch him 

It is a very important point in the study of pure 
Fetish to gain a clear conception of this arrangement of 
things in grades. As far as I have gone I think I may 
say fourteen classes of spirits exist in Fetish. Dr. 
Nassau of Gaboon thinks that the spirits commonly 


affecting human affairs can be classified fairly completely 
into six classes. 1 

Regarding the Fetish view of the state and condition 
of the human soul there are certain ideas that I think I 
may safely say are common to the various cults of 
Fetish, both Negro and Bantu, in Western Africa. 
Firstly, the class of spirits that are human souls always 
remain human souls. They do not become deified, nor 
do they sink in grade. I am aware that here I am on 
dangerous ground, so I am speaking carefully. 2 An 
eminent authority, when criticising my statements, 3 
dwelt upon their heterodoxy on this point, saying, 
however, " We may throw out the conjecture that in 
remote and obscure West Africa men do not reach the 
necessary pitch of renown for mighty deeds or sanctity 
that qualifies them in larger countries for elevation after 
death to high places among recognised divinities." 

This conjecture I quite accept as an explanation of 
the non-deification of human beings in West Africa, and 
I think, taken in conjunction with the grade conception, 
it fairly explains why West Africa has not what 
undoubtedly other regions of the world have in their 
religions, deified ancestors. 

After having had my attention drawn to the strange- 
ness of this non-deification of ancestors, I did my best 
to work the subject out in order to see if by any chance 
I had badly observed it. I consulted the accounts of 
West African religions given by Labat, Bosman, Bastian 
and Ellis, and to my great pleasure found that the three 
first said nothing against my statements, and that Sir 
A. B. Ellis had himself said the same thing in his Ewe 
Speaking People. Moreover, I sent a circular written on 
this point to people in West Africa whom I knew had 
opportunities of knowing the facts as at present existing, 
— the answers were unanimous with Ellis and myself. 

1 See Travels in West Africa, by M. H. Kingsley. Macmillan 
& Co. 1897. 

2 For further details see Travels in West Af7'ica, p. 444. 

3 " Origins and Interpretations of Primitive Religions." Edin- 
burgh Review, July, 1897, p. 219. 


Nevertheless, mind, you will find something that looks 
like worship of ancestors in West Africa. Only it is no 
more worship, properly so called, than our own deference 
to our living, elderly, and influential relations. 

In almost all Western African districts (it naturall 
does not show clearly in those where reincarnation 
believed to be the common and immediate lot of a 
human spirits) is a class of spirits called " the w 
disposed ones," and this class is clearly differentiated fro 
"them," the generic name used for non-human spiri 
These " well disposed ones " are ancestors, and they d 
what they can to benefit their particular village o 
family, acting in conjunction with the village or famil 
Fetish, who is not a human spirit, nor an ancestor. But t 
things given to ancestors are gifts, not in the proper sen 
of the word sacrifices, for the well disposed ones are no 
gods even of the rank of a Sasabonsum or an Ombuiri. 

In an extremely interesting answer to my inquirie 
that I received from Mr. J. H. Batty, of Cape Coast, who 
had kindly submitted my questions to a native gentle- 
man well versed in affairs, the statement regarding 
ancestors is, " The people believe that the spirits of their 
departed relations exercise a guardian care over them, 
and they will frequently stand over the graves of their 
deceased friends and invoke their spirits to protect them 
and their children from harm. It is imagined that the 
spirit lingers about the house some time after death. If 
the children are ill the illness is ascribed to the spirit of 
the deceased mother having embraced them. Elderly 
women are often heard to offer up a kind of prayer to 
the spirit of a departed parent, begging it either to go to 
its rest, or to protect the family by keeping off evil 
spirits, instead of injuring the children or other members 
of the family by its touch. The ghosts of departed 
enemies are considered by the people as bad spirits, who 
have power to injure them." 

In connection with this fear of the ancestor's ghost 
hurting members of its own family, particularly children, 
I may remark it has several times been carefully 
explained to me that this " touching " comes not from 


malevolence, but from loneliness and the desire to have 
their company. A sentimental but inconvenient desire 
that the living human cannot give in to perpetually, 
though big men will accede to their ancestors' desire for 
society by killing off people who may serve or cheer 
him. This desire for companionship is, of course, 
immensely greater in the spirit that is not definitely 
settled in the society of spiritdom, and it is therefore 
more dangerous to its own belongings, in fact to all 
living society, while it is hanging about the other side of 
the grave, but this side of Hades. Thus I well remember 
a delicious row that arose primarily out of trade matters, 
but which caused one family to yell at another family 
divers remarks, ending up with the accusation, "You 
good-for-nothing illegitimate offspring of house lizards, 
you don't bury your ditto ditto dead relations, but leave 
them knocking about anyhow, a curse to Calabar." 
Naturally therefore the spirit of a dead enemy is feared 
because it would touch for the purpose of getting spirit 
slaves ; therefore it follows that powerful ancestors are 
valued when they are on the other side, for they can 
keep off the dead enemies. A great chief's spirit is a 
thoroughly useful thing for a village to keep going, and 
in good order, for it conquered those who are among the 
dead with it, and can keep them under, keep them from 
aiding their people in the fights between its living 
relations and itself and them, with its slave spirit army. 
I ought to say that it is customary for the living to send 
the dead out ahead of the army, to bear the brunt in the 
first attack. 

Ancestor-esteem you will find at its highest pitch in 
West Africa under the school of Fetish that rules the 
Tshi and Ewe peoples. Ellis gives you a full description 
of it for Ashantee and Dahomey. 1 The next district 
going down coast is the Yoruba one ; but Yoruba has 
been so long under the influence of Mohammedanism that 
its Fetish, judging from Ellis's statement in his Yoruba 
Speaking People, is deeply tinged with it. I have no 

1 The Tshi Speaking, Ewe Speaking and Yoruba Speaking 
Peoples of the West Coast of Africa.— A. B. Ellis. 

U4 FETISH chap, v 

personal acquaintance with Yorubaland, but have no 
hesitation for myself in accepting his statements from 
the accuracy I have found them, by personal experience 
with Tshi and Ewe people, to possess. Below Yoruba 
comes a district, the Oil Rivers, where, alas, Ellis did 
not penetrate, and where no ethnologist, unless you will 
graciously extend the term to me, has ever cautiously 

In this district you have a school where reincarnation 
is strongly believed in, a different school of Fetish to 
that of Tshi and Ewe, a class of human ghosts called 
the well-disposed ones. And these are ancestors un- 
doubtedly. They do not show up clearly in those 
districts where reincarnation is believed to be the 
common lot of all human souls. Nevertheless, they are 
clear enough even there, as I will presently attempt to 

These ancestor spirits have things given to them for 
their consolation and support, and in return they do 
what they can to benefit and guard their own villages 
and families. Nevertheless, the things given to the well- 
disposed ones are not as things sacrificed to gods. Nor 
are the well-disposed ones gods, even of the grade of 
a Sasabonsum or an Ombuiri. It is a low down 
thing to dig up your father — i.e., open his grave and 
take away the things in it that have been given him. It 
will get you cut by respectable people, and rude people 
when there is a market-place row on will mention it 
freely ; but it won't bring on a devastating outbreak of 
small-pox in the whole district. 



Wherein the student, thinking things may be made clearer if it be 
perceived that there are clivers schools of Fetish, discourses on 
the schools of West African religious thought. 

As I have had occasion to refer to schools of Fetish, 
and as that is a term of my own, I must explain why 
I use it, and what I mean by it, in so far as I am able. 
When travelling from district to district you cannot fail 
to be struck by the difference in character of the native 
religion you are studying. My own range on the 
West Coast is from Sierra Leone to Loanda ; and here 
and there in places such as the Oil Rivers, the Ogowe, 
and the Lower Congo, I have gone inland into the 
heart of what I knew to be particularly rich districts for 
an ethnologist. I make no pretence to a thorough 
knowledge of African Fetish in all its schools, but 
I feel sure no wandering student of the subject in 
Western Africa can avoid recognising the existence of 
at least four distinct forms of development of the Fetish 
idea. They have, every one of them, the underlying 
idea I have attempted to sketch as pure Fetish when 
speaking of the position of the human soul ; and yet 
they differ. And I believe much of the confusion 
which is supposed to exist in African religious ideas 
is a confusion only existing in the minds of cabinet 
ethnologists from a want of recognition of the fact of 
the existence of these schools. 

I 2 


For example, suppose you take a few facts from 
Ellis and a few from Bastian and mix, and call the 
mixture West African religion, you do much the same 
sort of thing as if you took bits from Mr. Spurgeon's 
works, and from those of some eminent Jesuit and of 
a sound Greek churchman, and mixed them and 
labelled it European religion. The bits would be all 
right in themselves, but the mixture would be a quaint 

As far as my present knowledge of the matter goes, 
I should state that there were four main schools of 
West African Fetish : (i) the Tshi and Ewe school, 
Ellis's school ; (2) the Calabar school ; (3) the Mpongwe 
school ; (4) Nkissism or the Fjort school. Subdivisions 
of these schools can easily be made, but I only make 
the divisions of the different main objects of worship, or 
-more properly speaking, the thing each school especially 
endeavours to secure for man. The Tshi and Ewe 
school is mainly concerned with the preservation of life ; 
the Calabar school with attempting to enable the soul 
successfully to pass through death ; the Mpongwe 
school with the attainment of material prosperity ; while 
the school of Nkissi is mainly concerned with the wor- 
ship of the mystery of the power of Earth — Nkissinsi. 
You will find these divers things worshipped, or, 
rather, I would say cultivated, in all the schools of 
Fetish, but in certain schools certain ideas are pre- 
dominant. Look at Srahmantin of the Tshi people and 
at Nzambi of the Fjort. Both these ladies know where 
the animals go to drink, what they say to each other, 
where their towns are, and what not ; also they both 
know what the forest says to the wind and the rain, 
and all the forest's own small talk in the bargain, and, 
therefore, also the inner nature of all these things ; 
and both I have heard, like other ladies, prefer gentle- 
men's society. Women they have a tendency to be hard 
on, but either Srahmantin or Nzambi think nothing of 
taking up a man's time, making him neglect his busi- 
ness or his family affairs, or both together, by keeping 
him in the bush for a month or so at a time, teaching 

[ To face page 1 1 6. 

Fantbe Natives of the Gold Coast. 


him things about medicines, and finally sending him back 
into town in so addlepated a condition that for months he 
hardly knows who he exactly is. When he comes round, 
however, if he has any sense, he sets up in business as a 
medical man ; sometimes, however, he just remains 
merely cracky. Such a man was my esteemed Kefalla. 

But look how different under different schools is the 
position of Srahmantin and Nzambi. Srahmantin is 
only propitiated by doctors and hunters ; by all respect- 
able, busy, family men forced to go through forests, she 
is simply dreaded, while Nzambi, the great Princess, 
entirely dominates the whole school of Nkissism. 

From what cause or what series of causes the pre- 
dominance of these different things has come, I do not 
know, unless it be from different natural environment 
and different race. It is certainly not a mere tribal 
affair, for there are many different tribes under each 
school. For example, I do not think you need make 
more than a subdivision between the Tshi, the Ga or 
Ogi and the Ewe peoples' Fetish, nor more than a 
subdivision between those of the Eboes and the Ibbi- 
bios, or those of the Fjort and Mussurongoes ; but we 
want more information before it would be quite safe to 

It is impossible in the present state of our knowledge 
to give exact geographical limits to the different schools 
of Fetish, and I therefore only sketch their geographical 
distribution in Western Africa, from Sierra Leone to 
Loanda, hoping thereby to incite further research. 

Sierra Leone and its adjacent districts have not been 
studied by an ethnologist. We have only scattered 
information regarding the religion there ; and unfortu- 
nately the observations we have on it mainly bear on the 
operations of the secret societies, which in these regions 
have attained to much power, and are usually, though 
erroneously, grouped under the name of Poorah. Poorah, 
like all secret societies, is intensely interesting, for it is 
the manifestation of the law form of Fetish ; but secret 
societies are pure Fetish, and common to all districts. 
All that we can gather from the scattered observations 


on the rest of the Fetish in this region is that it is allied 
to the Fetish school of the Tshi speaking people. 

Next to this unobserved district, we come to the well- 
observed districts of the Tshi, Ewe, and Yoruba 
speaking people — Ellis's region. 

It may seem unwise for me to attempt to group these 
three together and call them one school, because from 
this one district we have two distinct cults of Fetish in 
the West Indies, Voudou and Obeah (Tchanga and 
Wanga). Voudou itself is divided into two sects, the 
white and the red — the first, a comparatively harmless 
one, requiring only the sacrifice of, at the most, a white 
cock or a white goat, whereas the red cult only uses the 
human sacrifice — the goat without horns. Obeah, on 
the other hand, kills only by poison — does not show the 
blood at all. And there is another important difference 
between Voudou and Obeah, and that is that Voudou 
requires for the celebration of its rites a priestess and a 
priest. Obeah can be worked by either alone, and is 
not tied to the presence of the snake. Both these cults 
have sprung from slaves imported from Ellis's district, 
Obeah from slaves bought at Koromantin mainly, and 
Voudou from those bought at Dahomey. Nevertheless, 
it seems to me these good people have differentiated 
their religion in the West Indies considerably : for 
example, in Obeah the spider (anansi) has a position 
given it equal to that of the snake in Voudou. Now the 
spider is all very well in West Africa ; round him there 
has grown a series of most amusing stories, always to be 
told through the nose, and while you crawl about ; but 
to put him on a plane with the snake in Dahomey is 
absurd ; his equivalent there is the turtle, also a focus for 
many tales, only more improper tales, and not half so 

The true importance and status of the snake in 
Dahomey is a thing hard to fix. Personally I believe it 
to be merely a case of especial development of a local 
Ju Ju. We all know what the snake signifies, and 
instances of its attaining a local eminence occur elsewhere. 
At Creek Town, in Calabar, and Brass River it is more 

[To face page 118. 



than respected. It is an accidental result of some bit of 
history we have lost, like the worship of the crocodile at 
Dixcove and in the Lower Congo. Whereas it is clear 
that the general respect, amounting to seeming worship, 
of the leopard is another affair altogether, for the leopard 
is the great thing in all West African forests, and forests 
and surf are the great things in Western Africa — the 
lines of perpetual danger to the life of man. 

But there is a remarkable point that you cannot fail 
to notice in the Fetish of these three divisions of true 
Negro Fetish studied by Ellis, namely, that what is one 
god in Yoruba you get as several gods exercising one 
particular function in Dahomey, as hundreds of gods on 
the Gold Coast. Moreover, all these gods in all these 
districts have regular priests and priestesses in dozens, 
while below Yoruba regular priests and priestesses are 
rare. There the officials of the law societies abound, and 
there are Fetish men, but these are different people to 
the priests of Bohorwissi and Tando. 

I do not know Yoruba land personally, but have had 
many opportunities of inquiring regarding its Fetish 
from educated and uneducated natives of that country 
whom I have met down Coast as traders and artisans. 
Therefore, having found nothing to militate against 
Ellis's statements, I accept them for Yoruba as for 
Dahomey and the Gold Coast ; and my great regret is 
that his careful researches did not extend down into the 
district below Yoruba — the district I class under the 
Calabar school — more particularly so because the districts 
he worked at are all districts where there has been a 
great and long-continued infusion of both European and 
Mohammedan forms of thought, owing to the four- 
hundred-year-old European intercourse on the seaboard, 
and the even older and greater Mohammedan influence 
from the Western Soudan ; whereas below these districts 
you come to a region of pure Negro Fetish that has 
undergone but little infusion of alien thought. 

Whether or no to place Benin with Yoruba or with 
Calabar is a problem. There is, no doubt, a very close 
connection between it and Yoruba. There is also no 


doubt that Benin was in touch, even as late as the 
seventeenth century, with some kingdom of the higher 
culture away in the interior. It may have been 
Abyssinia, or it may have been one of the cultured states 
that the chaos produced by the Mohammedan invasion 
of the Soudan destroyed. In our present state of 
knowledge we can only conjecture, I venture to think, 
idly, until we know more. The only thing that is certain 
is that Benin was influenced as is shown by its art 
development. Benin practically broke up long before 
Ashantee or Dahomey, for, as Proyart 1 remarks, " many 
small kingdoms or native states which at the present day 
share Africa among them were originally provinces 
dependant on other kingdoms, the particular governors 
of which usurped the sovereignty." Benin's north-western 
provinces seem to have done this, possibly with the 
assistance of the Mohammedanised people who came 
down to the seaboard seeking the advantages of white 
trade ; and Benin became isolated in its forest swamps, 
cut off from the stimulating influence of successful wars, 
and out of touch with the expanding influence of 
commerce, and devoted its attention too much to Fetish 
matters to be healthy for itself or any one who fell in 
with it. It is an interesting point in this connection to 
observe that we do not find in the accounts given by the 
earlier voyagers to Benin city anything like the enormous 
sacrifice of human life described by visitors to it of our 
own time. Other districts round Calabar, Bonny, Opobo, 
and so on, have human sacrifice as well, but they show 
no signs of being under Benin in trade matters, in which 
Benin used to be very strict when it had the chance. In 
fact, whatever respect they had for Benin was a 
sentimental one, such as the King of Kongo has, and 
does not take the practical form of paying taxes. 

The extent of the direct influence of Benin away 
into the forest belt to the east and south I do not think 
at any time was great. Benin was respected because it 
was regarded as possessing a big Fetish and great riches. 

1 History of Loango, by the Abbe Proyart, 1776. Pinkerton 
vol. xvi. p. 587. 


In recent years it was regarded by people discontented 
with white men as their great hope, from its power to 
resist these being greater than their own. Nevertheless, 
the adjacent kingdom of Owarie (Warri), even in the 
sixteenth century, was an independent kingdom. So 
different was its Fetish from that of Benin that Warri 
had not then, and has not to this day, human sacrifice in 
its religious observances, only judicial and funeral killings. 

Considering how very easily Africans superficially 
adopt the religious ideas of alien people with whom 
they have commercial intercourse, we must presume 
that the people who imported the art of working in 
metals into Benin also imported some of their religion. 
The relics of religion, alien to Fetish, that show in Benin 
Fetish are undoubtedly Christian. Whether these relics 
are entirely those of the Portuguese Roman Catholic 
missions, or are not also relics of some earlier Christian 
intercourse with Western Soudan Christianised states 
existing prior to the Mohammedan invasion of Northern 
Africa, is again a matter on which we require more in- 
formation. But just as I believe some of the metal 
articles found in Benin to be things made in Birming- 
ham, some to be old Portuguese, some to be native 
castings, copies of things imported from that unknown 
inland state, and some to be the original inland state 
articles themselves, so do I believe the relics of Chris- 
tianity in the Fetish to be varied in origin, all alike 
suffering absorption by the native Fetish. 

There is no doubt that up to the last twenty years 
the three great Fetish kings in Western Africa were 
those of Ashantee, Dahomey, and Benin. Each of 
these kings was alike believed by the whole of the people 
to have great Fetish power in his own locality. In the 
time of which we have no historical record — prior to the 
visits of the first white voyagers in the fifteenth century 
— there is traditional record of the King of Benin 
fighting with his cousin of Dahomey. Possibly Dahomey 
beat him badly ; anyhow something went seriously 
wrong with Benin as a territorial kingdom, before its 
discovery by modern Europe. 


I now turn to the Fetish of the Oil Rivers which I 
have called the Calabar school. The predominance there 
of the belief in reincarnation seems to me sufficient 
to separate it from the Gold Coast and Dahomey Fetish. 
Funeral customs, important in all Negro Fetish, become 
in the Calabar school exceedingly so. A certain amount 
of care anywhere is necessary to successfully establish 
the human soul after death, for the human soul strongly 
objects to leaving material pleasures and associations 
and going to, at best, an uninteresting under-world ; but 
when you have not only got to send the soul down, but 
to bring it back into the human form again, and not any 
human form at that, but one of its own social status and 
family, the thing becomes more complicated still ; and 
to do it so engrosses human attention, and so absorbs 
human wealth, that you do not find under the Calabar 
school a multitude of priest-served gods as you do in 
Dahomey and on the Gold Coast. Mind you, so far as 
I could make out while in the Calabar districts myself, 
the equivalents of those same gods were quite believed 
in ; but they were neglected in a way that would have 
caused them in Dahomey, where they have been taught 
to fancy themselves, to wreck the place. Not only is 
care taken to send a soul down, but means are taken to 
see whether or no it has duly returned ; for keeping a 
valuable soul, like that of a great Fetish proficient who 
could manage outside spirits, or that of a good trader, 
is a matter of vital importance to the prosperity of the 
Houses, so when such a soul has left the House in con- 
sequence of some sad accident or another, or some vile 
witchcraft, the babies that arrive at the House are 
closely watched. Assortments of articles belonging to 
deceased members of the house are presented to it, 
and then, according to the one it picks out, it is decided 
who that baby really is — " See, Uncle so-and-so knows 
his own pipe," &c. — and I have often heard a mother re- 
proaching a child for some fault say, " Oh, we made a 
big mistake when we thought you were so-and-so." I 
must say I think the absence of the idea of the deifi- 
cation of ancestors in West Africa shows up particularly 

A Calabar Chief 

[To face p. 122. 


strongly in the Calabar school, for herein you see so clearly 
that the dead do not pass into a higher, happier state 
— that the soul separate from the body is only a part of 
that thing we call a human being ; and in West Africa 
the whole is greater than a part, even in this matter. 

The pathos of the thing, when you have grasped the 
underlying idea, is so deep that the strangeness of it 
passes away, and you almost forget to hate the horrors 
of the slaughter that hang round Oil River funeral 
customs, or, at any rate, you understand the tenacity 
you meet with here of the right to carry out killing at 
funerals, a greater tenacity than confronted us in Gold 
Coast or Dahomey regions, because a different idea is 
involved in the affair. On the Gold Coast, for example, 
you can substitute wealth for the actual human victim, 
because with wealth the dead soul could, after all, make 
itself comfortable in Srahmandazi, but not so in the 
Rivers. Without slaves, wives, and funds, how can the 
dead soul you care for speak with the weight of tes- 
timony of men as to its resting place or position ? 
Rolls of velvet or satin, and piles of manillas or doub- 
loons alone cannot speak ; besides, they may have been 
stolen stuff, and the soul you care for may be put down 
by the authorities as a mere thieving slave, a sort of mere 
American gold bug trying to pass himself off as a duke 
— or a descendant of General Washington — which would 
lead to that soul being disgraced and sent back in a vile 
form. Think how you yourself, if in comfortable cir- 
cumstances, belonging to a family possessing wealth 
and power, would like father, mother, sister, or brother 
of yours who by this change of death had just left 
these things, to go down through death, and come 
back into life in a squalid slum ! 

We meet in this school, however, with a serious 
problem — namely, what does become of dead chiefs ? 
It is a point I will not dogmatise on, but it certainly 
looks as if the Calabar under-world was a most aris- 
tocratic spot, peopled entirely by important chiefs and 
the retinues sent down with them — by no means having 
the fine mixed society of Srahmandazi. 


The Oil River deceased chief is clearly kept as a sort 
of pensioner. The chief who succeeds him in his 
headship of the House is given to "making his father" 
annually. It is not necessarily his real father that he 
makes, but his predecessor in the headmanship — a slave 
succeeding to a free man would " make his father " to 
the dead free man, and so on. This function un- 
doubtedly consists in sending his predecessor a big 
subsidy for his support, and consolation in the shape 
of slaves and goods. I may as well own I have long 
had a dark suspicion regarding this matter — a suspicion 
as to where those goods went. Their proper destination, 
of course, should be the under-world. Thither un- 
doubtedly on the Gold Coast they would go ; but when 
sent in the Rivers I do not think they go so far. In 
fact, to make a clean breast of it, I do not believe big 
chiefs are properly buried in the Oil Rivers at all. I 
think they are, for political purposes, kept hanging 
about outside life, but not inside death, by their 
diplomatic successors. I feel emboldened to say this by 
what my friend, Major Leonard, Vice-Consul of the 
Niger Coast Protectorate, recently told me. When he 
was appointed Vice-Consul, and was introducing himself 
to his chiefs in this capacity, one chief he visited went 
aside to a deserted house, opened the door, and talked 
to somebody inside ; there was not any one in material 
form inside, only the spirit of his deceased predecessor, 
and all the things left just as they were when he died ; 
the live chief was telling the dead chief that the new 
Consul was come, &c. 

The reason, that is the excuse, for this seemingly un- 
principled conduct in not properly burying the chief, so 
that he may be reincarnated to a complete human form, 
lies in the fact that he would be a political nuisance to 
his successor if he came back promptly ; therefore he is 
kept waiting. 

From first-class native informants I have had frag- 
ments of accounts of father-making ceremonies. Par- 
ticularly interesting have been their accounts of what 
the live chief says to the dead one. Much of it, of 


course, is, for diplomatic reasons, not known outside 
official circles. But the general tone of these commu- 
nications is well known to be of a nature to discourage 
the dead chief from returning, and to reconcile him to 
his existing state. Things are not what they were here. 
The price of oil is down, women are ten times more 
frivolous, slaves ten times more trying, white Consul 
men abound, also their guns are more deadly than of 
old, this new Consul looks worse than the last, there is 
nothing but war and worry for a chief nowadays. The 
whole country is going to the dogs financially and 
domestically, in fact, and you are much better off where 
you are. Then come petitions for such help as the ghost 
chief and his ghost retinue can give. 

This, I think, explains why chiefs' funeral customs in 
the Rivers differ in kind, not merely in grade, from those 
of big trade boys or other important people, and also 
accounts for their repetition at intervals. Big trade boys, 
and the slaves and women sent down with them, return 
to a full human form more or less promptly ; mere low 
grade slaves, slaves that cannot pull a canoe, i.e., provide 
a war canoe for the service of the House out of their 
own private estate, are not buried at all — they are 
thrown away, unless they have a mother who will bury 
them. They will come back again all right as slaves, 
but then that is all they are fit for. 

Then we have left very interesting sections of the com- 
munity to consider from a funeral rite point of view — 
namely, those in human form who are not, strictly 
speaking, human beings, and those who, though human, 
have committed adultery with spirits — women who bear 
twins or who die in child-birth. These sinners, I may 
briefly remark, are neither buried nor just thrown away ; 
they are, as far as possible, destroyed. But with the 
former class the matter is slightly different. Children, 
for example, that arrive with ready cut teeth, will in a 
strict family be killed or thrown away in the bush to die 
as they please ; but the feeling against them is not 
really keen. They may, if the mother chooses to be 
bothered with them, be reared ; but the interesting point 


is that any property they may acquire during life has no 
legal heir whatsoever. It may be dissipated, thrown 
away. This shows clearly that such individuals are not 
human, and, moreover, they are not buried nor destroyed 
at death ; they are just thrown away. There is no par- 
ticular harm in them as there is in the sin-stained twins. 

The only class in West Africa I have found that are 
like these spirit humans is that strange class, the min- 
strels. I wish I knew more about these people. Were 
it not that Mr. F. Swanzy possesses material evidence of 
their existence, in the shape of the most superb song-net, 
I should hesitate to mention them at all. Some of my 
French friends, however, tell me they have seen them 
in Senegal, and I venture to think that region must be 
their head quarters. I have seen one in Accra, one in 
Sierra Leone, two on board steamers, and one in Buana 
town, Cameroon. Briefly, these are minstrels who fre- 
quent market towns and for a fee sing stories. Each 
minstrel has a song-net — a strongly made net of fishing 
net sort. On to this net are tied all manner and sorts 
of things, pythons' back bones, tobacco pipes, bits of 
china, feathers, bits of hide, birds' heads, reptiles' heads, 
bones, &c, &c, and to every one of these objects hangs 
a tale. You see your minstrel's net, you select an 
object and say how much that song. He names an 
exorbitant price ; you haggle ; no good. He won't be 
reasonable, say over the python bone, so you price the 
tobacco pipe — more haggle ; finally you settle on some 
object and its price, and sit down on your heels and 
listen with rapt attention to the song, or, rather, chant. 
You usually have another. You sort of dissipate in 
novels, in fact. I do not say it's quiet reading, because 
unprincipled people will come headlong and listen when 
you have got your minstrel started, without paying their 
subscription. Hence a row, unless you are, like me, in- 
different to other people having a little pleasure. 

These song-nets, I may remark, are not of a regulation 
size. I have never seen on the West Coast anything 
like so superb a collection of stories as Mr. Swanzy has 
tied on that song-net of his — Woe is me ! without the 


translating minstrel, a cycle of dead songs that must 
have belonged to a West African Shakespeare. The 
most impressive song-net that I saw was the one at 
Buana. Its owner I called Homer on the spot, because 
his works were a terrific two. Tied on to his small net 
were a human hand and a human jaw bone. They 
were his only songs. I heard them both regardless of 
expense. I did not understand them, because I did not 
know his language ; but they were fascinating things, 
and the human hand one had a passage in it which 
caused the singer to crawl on his hands and knees, 
round and round, stealthily looking this side and that, 
giving the peculiar leopard questing cough, and making 
the leopard mark on the earth with his doubled-up fist. 
Ah ! that was something like a song ! It would have 
roused a rock to enthusiasm ; a civilised audience would 
have smothered its singer with bouquets. I — well, the 
headman with me had to interfere and counsel modera- 
tion in heads of tobacco. 

But what I meant to say about these singers was only 
this. They are not buried as other people are ; they are 
put into trees when they are dead — maybe because they 
are " all same for one " with those singers the birds. I 
do not know, I only hope Homer is still extant, and that 
some more intelligent nearer than I will meet with him. 

The southern boundary of the Calabar school of 
Fetish lies in narrower regions than the boundary be- 
tween it and Ellis's school in the north. I venture to 
think that this may in a measure arise from there being 
in the southern region the additional element of differ- 
ence of race. For immediately below Calabar in the 
Cameroon territory the true Negro meets the Bantu. 
In Cameroon in the tribes of the Dualla stem we have 
a people speaking a Bantu language, and having a 
Bantu culture, yet nevertheless having a great infusion 
of pure Negro blood, and largely under the dominion 
of the true Negro thought form. 

I own that of all the schools of Fetish that I know, 
the Calabar school is the one that fascinates me most. 
I like it better than Ellis's school, wherein the fate of 


the soul after death is a life in a shadow land, with 
shadows for friends, lovers, and kinsfolk, with the 
shadows of joys for pleasures, the shadows of quarrels 
for hate — a thing that at its best is inferior to the 
wretchedest full-life on earth. Yet this settled shadow- 
land of Srahmandazi or Gboohiadse is a better thing 
than the homeless drifting state of the soul in the school 
below Calabar — namely, the school I have ventured to 
term the Mpongwe school. To the brief consideration 
of this school we will now turn. 

In between the strongly-marked Calabar school and 
the strongly-marked school of Nkissism of Loango 
Kacongo, and Bas Congo there exists a school plainly 
differing from both. This region is interesting for many 
reasons, chief amongst which is that it is the sea-board 
region of the great African Forest belt. Tribe after 
tribe come down into it, flourish awhile, and die, unin- 
fluenced by Mohammedan or European culture. The 
Mohammedans in Africa as aforesaid have never mas- 
tered the western region of the forest belt ; and the 
Europeans have never, in this region between Cameroon 
and Loango, established themselves in force. It is un- 
doubtedly the wildest bit of West Africa. 

The dominant tribes here have, for as far back as we 
can get evidence — some short four hundred years — been 
tribes of the Mpongwe stem — the so-called noble tribes. 
To-day they are dying — going off the face of the earth, 
leaving behind them nothing to bear testimony in this 
world to their great ability, save the most marvellously 
beautiful language, the Greek of Africa, as Dr. Nassau 
calls it, and the impress of their more elaborate thought- 
form on the minds of the bush tribes that come into 
contact with them. Their last pupils are the great 
Bafangh, now supplanting them in the regions of the 
Bight of Panavia. 

From their influence I think the school of Fetish of 
this region is perhaps best called the Mpongwe school, 
though I do not altogether like the term, because I 
believe the Mpongwe stem to be in origin pure Negro, 
and the Fetish school they have elaborated and co- 


ordinated is Bantu in thought-form, just as the language 
they have raised to so high a pitch of existence is in 
itself a Bantu language. Yet the Mpongwe are rulers 
of both these things, and they will thereby leave im- 
printed on the minds of their supplanters in the land 
the mark of their intelligence. 

I have said the predominant idea in this Mpongwe 
school is the securing of material prosperity. That is 
to say this is the part of pure Fetish that receives more 
attention than other parts of pure Fetish in this school ; 
but it attains to no such definite predominance as funeral 
rites do in the Calabar school, or the preservation of 
life in Ellis's school. One might, however, quite fairly 
call the Mpongwe school the trade-charm school, great 
as trade charms are in all West African Fetish. 

This lack of a predominance sufficient to dwarf 
other parts of pure Fetish makes the Mpongwe school 
particularly interesting and valuable to a student ; it is 
a magnificent school to study your pure Fetish in, as 
none of it is here thrown by a predominant factor 
into the background of thought, and left in a neglected 

It is of this school that you will find Dr. Nassau's 
classification of spirits, and all the other observations 
of his that I have quoted of things absolutely be- 
lieved in by the natives, and also all the Mpongwe, 
Benga, Igalwa, Ncomi, and Fetish I have attempted 
to describe. 1 

It has no gods with proper priests. Human beings 
are here just doing their best to hold their own with 
the spirit world, getting spirits under their control as 
far as possible, and dealing with the rest of them dip- 
lomatically. This state I venture to think is Fetish in a 
very early form, a form through which the now 
elaborate true Negro Fetish must have passed before 
reaching its present co-ordinated state. How long ago 
it was when the true Negro was in this stage I will not 
venture to conjecture. Sir Henry Maine, of whom I am 
a very humble follower, says, " Nothing moves that is 
1 Travels in West Africa. Fetish Chapters. 



not Greek." This is a hard saying to accept, but the 
truth of it grows on you when you are studying things 
such as these, and you are forced to acknowledge that 
they at any rate have a slow rate of development — 
sometimes indeed it seems that there is a mere wave 
motion of thought among all men rising here and there 
when in the hands of superior tribes, like the Mpongwe 
for example, to a wave crest destined on their extinction 
to fall again. Now and again as a storm on the sea, the 
impulse of a revealed religion sweeps down on to this 
ocean of nature philosophy, elevates it or confuses it 
according to the initial profundity of it. If you 
have ever seen the difference between a deep sea storm 
and an esturial storm, you will know what I mean. Yet 
this has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the 
Fetish thought-form, but merely has a bearing on the 
quality of the minds that deal with it, as it must on all 
minds not under the influence of a revealed religion ; 
and I now turn, in conclusion of this brief consideration 
of the schools of Fetish in West Africa, to the next 
school to the Mpongwe, namely, the school of Nkissism. 
I need not go into details concerning it here ; you have 
them at your command in the two great works of 
Bastian, An Expedition under Loango Kiiste and Besuch 
in San Salvador, and in Mr. R. E. Dennett's Folk Lore 
of the Fjorts, published by the liberality of the Folk Lore 
Society, and also his former book, Seven Years among 
the Fjorts} 

The predominant feature in this school is undoubtedly 
the extra recognition given to the mystery of the power 
of the earth, Nkissi 'nsi. Here you find the earth god- 
dess Nzambi the paramount feature in the Fetish ; from 
her the Fetish priests have their knowledge of the proper 
way to manage and communicate with lower earth 
spirits, round her circle almost all the legends, in her 
lies the. ultimate human hope of help and protection. 
Nzambi is too large a subject for us to enter into here. 
She is the great mother, but she is not absolute in power. 
She. is not one of the forms of the great unheeding over- 
1 Sampson Low and Co. 

go— riE A 





[To face p. 130. 
Fjokt Natives of Kacongo and Loango. 


lord of gods, like Nyankupong, or Abassi-boom ; the 
equivalent to him, is her husband Nzambi Mpungu, 
among the followers of Nkissism ; but the pre- 
dominance given in this school to the great Princess 
Nzambi has had two effects that must be borne in mind 
in studying the region from Loango to the south bank 
of Congo. Firstly, it apparently led to Nzambi being 
confused by the natives with the Holy Virgin, when 
they were under the tuition of the Romam Catholic 
missionaries during the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries ; hence Nzambi's cult requires to be studied 
with the greatest care at the present day. Secondly, 
partly in consequence of the native predominance given 
to her, and partly in the predominance she has gained 
from the aforesaid confusion, women have a very 
singular position, a superior one to that which they have 
in other schools ; this you will see by reading the stories 
collected by Mr. Dennett. I will speak no further now 
concerning these schools of Fetish, for Nkissism is the 
most southern of the West African schools, its domain 
extending over the whole of the regions once forming 
the kingdom of Kongo down to Angola. Below Angola, 
on the West Coast, you come to the fringing zone of the 
Kalahi desert, and to those interesting people the Bush- 
men, of whose religion I am unable, with any personal 
experience, to speak. Below them you strike South 
Africa. South Africa is South Africa ; West Africa is 
West Africa. Of the former I know nothing, of the 
latter, alas ! only a tenth part of what I should wish to 
know, so I return to pure Fetish and to its bearing on 



Wherein the student having by now got rather involved in things 
in general, is constrained to discourse on witchcraft and its 
position in West African religious thought, concluding with 
the conviction that Fetish is quite clear, though the student has 
not succeeded in making it so. 

Now, here we come to a very interesting question : 
What is witchcraft in itself? Conversing freely with the 
Devil, says Christendom, firmly ; and taking the Devil 
to mean the Spirit of Evil, I am bound to think Chris- 
tendom is in a way scientifically quite right, though 
the accepted scientific definition of witchcraft at present 
is otherwise, and holds witchcraft to be conversing with 
Natural Science, which of course I cannot accept as 
the Devil. Thus I cannot reconcile the two definitions, 
should they mean the same thing ; and so I am here 
really in the position of being at one in opinion with 
the Roman Catholic missionaries of the fifteenth cen- 
tury, who, as soon as they laid eyes on my friend the 
witch-doctor, recognised him and his goings on as a 
mass of witchcraft, and went for the whole affair in an 
exceeding game way. 

But let us take the accepted view, that first pro- 
pounded by Sir Alfred Lyall ; and I humbly beg it to 
be clearly understood I am only speaking of the bearing 
of that view on Fetish in West Africa. I was of course 
fully aware of the accepted view of the innate anta- 


gonism between religion and witchcraft when I pub- 
lished in a deliberately scattered form some of my 
observations on Fetish, being no more desirous of giving 
a mental lead to white men than to black, but only 
wistful to find out what they thought of things as they 
are. The consequence of this action of mine has been, 
I fear, on the whole a rather more muddled feeling in the 
white mind regarding Fetish than ever heretofore existed ; 
a feeling that, if what I said was true, (and in this 
matter of Fetish information no one has gainsaid the 
truth of it), West African religion was more perplexing 
than it seemed to be when regarded as a mere degraded 
brutal superstition or childish foolishness. 

However, one distinguished critic has tackled my 
Fetish, and gallantly: the writer in the Edinburgh 
Review. With his remarks on our heresy regarding the 
deification of ancestors I have above attempted to deal, 
owning he is quite right — we do not believe in deified 
ancestors. I now pass on to his other important criticism, 
and again own he is quite right, and that " witchcraft 
and religious rites in West Africa are originally indis- 
tinguishable." x This is evidently a serious affair for 
West Africa and me, so I must deal with it carefully, 
and first quote my critic's words following immediately 
those just cited. "If this is correct there can be no 
doubt that such a confusion of the two ideas that in 
their later forms not only stand widely apart, but are 
always irreconcilably hostile, denotes the very lowest 
stage of aboriginal superstition wherever it prevails, for 
it has been held that, although the line between abject 
fetishism and witchcraft may be difficult to trace in the 
elementary stages, yet from the beginning a true dis- 
tinction can invariably be recognised. According to this 
theory, the witch is more nearly allied with rudimentary 
science than with priestcraft, for he relies not upon 
prayer, worship, or propitiation of divinities, but upon 
his own secret knowledge and experience of the effect 
producible by certain tricks and mysterious devices upon 
the unseen powers, over whom he has obtained a sort 
1 July, 1897, p. 221. 


of command. Instead of serving like a priest these 
powers, he is enabled by his art to make them serve 
him, and it is for this reason that his practices very soon 
become denounced and detested by the priesthood." 

Now there arc many interesting points to be con- 
sidered in West Africa bearing on the above statement 
of Sir Alfred Lyall's theory of the nature of witchcraft, 
— points which I fancy, if carefully considered, would 
force upon us the strange conclusion that, accepting 
this theory as a general statement of the nature of 
witchcraft, there was no witchcraft whatever in West 
Africa, nothing having " a true distinction " in the native 
mind from religion. You may say there is no religion 
and it's all witchcraft, but this is a superficial view to 
take ; you see the orthodox Christian view of witchcraft 
contains in it an element not present in the West 
African affair ; the Christian regards the witch with 
hatred as one knowing good, yet choosing evil. The 
West African has not this choice in his mind ; he has to 
deal with spirits who are not, any of them, up to much 
in the way of virtue viewed from a human standpoint. 
I don't say they are all what are called up here devils ; 
a good many of them are what you might call reason- 
able, respectable, easy-going sort of people ; some are 
downright bad ; in fact, I don't think it would be going 
too far to say that they are all downright bad if they get 
their tempers up or take a dislike to a man ; there is 
not one of them beneficent to the human race at large. 
Nzambi is the nearest approach to a beneficent deity 
I have come across, and I feel she owes much of this to 
the confusion she profits by, and the Holy Virgin suffers 
from, in the regions under Nkissism ; but Nzambi her- 
self is far from morally perfect and very difficult 
tempered at times. You need not rely on me in this 
matter ; take the important statement of Dr. Nassau : 
" Observe, these were distinctly prayers, appeals for 
mercy, agonising protests ; but there was no praise, no 
love, no thanks, no confession of sin." * He was speak- 
ing regarding utterances made down there in the face of 
1 Travels in West Africa. Macmillan, 1897^.453. 


great afflictions and sorrow ; and there was no praise, 
because there was no love, I fancy ; no thanks because 
what good was done to the human being was a mere 
boughten thing he had paid for ; no confession of sin, 
because the Fetish believer does not hold he lives in a 
state of sin, but that it is a thing he can commit now 
and again if he is fool enough. Sin to him is not 
what it is to us, a vile treason against a loving Father, 
but a very ill-advised act against powerful, nasty- / 
tempered spirits. Herein you see lies one difference 
between the Christian and the Fetish view — a funda- 1 
mental one, that must be borne in mind. 

Then in the above-quoted passage you will observe 
that the dislike to witchcraft is traced in a measure to 
the action of priesthoods. This hatred is undoubted. 
But witchcraft is as much hated in districts in West 
Africa where there are no organised priesthoods as in 
districts where there are — in the regions under the 
Calabar and Mpongwe schools, for example, where the 
father of the house is the true priest to the family, 
where what looks like a priesthood, but which is a law- 
god-cult only — the secret society — is the dominant 
social thing. Now this law-god-cult affair, Purroh, Oru, 
Egbo, Ukukiwe, etc., etc., call it what you please, it's all 
the same thing, is not the organisation that makes war 
on witchcraft in West Africa. It deals with it now and 
then, if it is brought under its official notice ; but it 
is not necessary that this should be done ; summary 
methods are used with witches. It just appeals at once 
to ordeal, any one can claim it. You can claim it, and 
administer it yourself to yourself, if you are the accused 
party and in a hurry. A. says to you, "You're a witch." 
" I'm not," you ejaculate. I take the bean ; down it 
goes ; you're sick or dead long before the elaborate 
mechanism of the law society has heard of the affair. 
Of course, if you want to make a big palaver and run 
yourself and your accuser into a lot of expense you can 
call in the society; but you needn't. From this and 
divers things like it I do not think the hatred of witch- 
craft in West Africa at large has anything originally to 


do with the priesthood. You will say, but there is 
the hatred of witchcraft in West Africa. You have only 
to shout " Ifot " at a man or woman in Calabar, or 
" Ndo tcki" in Fjort-land, and the whole population, so 
good-tempered the moment before, is turned blood- 
thirsty. Witches are torn to bits, destroyed in every 
savage way, when the ordeal has conclusively proved 
their guilt — mind you, never before. Granted ; but I 
believe this to be just a surging up of that form of terror 
called hate. 

I am old enough to remember the dynamite scares 
up here, and the Jack the Ripper incidents ; then it was 
only necessary for some one to call out, " Dynamiter " 
or "Jack the Ripper" at a fellow-citizen, and up surged 
our own people, all same for one with those Africans, 
only our people, not being so law-governed, would have 
shredded the accused without ordeal, had we not pos- 
sessed that great factor in the formation of public virtue, 
the police, who intervened, carried away the accused to 
the ordeal — the police court — where the affair was gone 
into with judicial calm. Honestly, I don't believe there 
is the slightest mystic revulsion against witchcraft in 
West Africa ; public feeling is always at bursting-point on 
witches, their goings-on are a constant danger to every 
peaceful citizen's life, family, property, and so on, and 
when the general public thinks it's got hold of one of the 
vermin it goes off with a bang ; but it does not think for 
one moment that the witch is per se in himself a thing 
apart ; he is just a bad man too much, who has gone and 
taken up with spirits for illegitimate purposes. The 
mere keeping of a familiar power, which under Chris- 
tendom is held so vile a thing, is not so held in West 
Africa. Every one does it ; there is not a man, woman, 
or child who has not several attached spirits for help and 
preservation from danger and disease. It is keeping a 
spirit for bad purposes only that is hateful. It is one 
thing to have dynamite in the hand of the government or 
a mining company for reasonable reasons, quite another 
to have it in the hands of enemies to society ; and such 
an enemy is a witch who trains the spirits over which he 


has got control to destroy his fellow human beings' lives 
and properties. 

The calling in of ordeal to try the witch before destroy- 
ing him has many interesting points. The African, be it 
granted, is tremendously under the dominion of law, and 
it is the law that such trials should take place before 
execution ; but there is also involved in it another curious 
fact, and that is that the spirit of the ordeal is held to be 
able to manage and suppress the bad spirits trained by 
the witch to destruction. Human beings alone can 
collar the witch and destroy him in an exemplary 
manner, but spiritual aid is required to collar the witch's 
devil, or it would get adrift and carry on after its owner's 
death. Regarding ordeal affairs I will speak when deal- 
ing with legal procedure. 

Such being the West African view of witchcraft, I 
venture to think there are in this world divers reasons 
for hating witchcraft. There is the fetish one, that he 
is an enemy to society ; there is the priesthood one, that 
he is a sort of quack or rival practitioner — under this 
head of priesthood aversion for witchcraft I think we 
may class the witchcraft that is merely a hovering about 
of the old religion which the priesthood of an imported 
religion are anxious to stamp out ; and there is that 
aversion to witchcraft one might call the Protestant aver- 
sion, which arises from the feeling that it is a direct 
sin against God Himself. This latter feeling has been 
the cause of as violent a persecution of witches, witness 
the action of King James I. and that of the Quakers in 
America, as any West African has ever presented to 
the world. Throughout all these things the fact re- 
mains, that whether black, white, or yellow, the witch is 
a bad man, a murderer in the eyes of Allah as well as 
those of humanity. 

That all witches act by means of poison alone would 
be too hasty a thing to say, because I think we need 
hardly doubt that the African is almost as liable to die 
from a poisonous idea put into his mind as a poisonous 
herb put into his food ; indeed, I do not know that in 
West Africa we need confine ourselves to saying natives 


alone do this, for white men sink and die under an idea 
that breaks their spirit. All the vital powers are re- 
quired there to resist the depressing climate. If they 
are weakened seriously in any way, death is liable to 
ensue. The profound belief in the power of a witch 
causes a man who knows, say, that either a nail has 
been driven into an Nkiss down on the South- West 
coast, or the Fangaree drum beaten on him up in the 
Sierra Leone region, to collapse under the terror of it, 
and I own I can see no moral difference between the 
guilt of the man or woman who does these things with 
the intent to slay a fellow-citizen and that of one who 
puts bush into his chop — both mean to kill and do kill, 
but both methods are good West African witchcraft. 
The latter may seem to be an incipient form of natural 
science, but it seems to me — I say it humbly — that the 
West African incipient scientist is not the local witch, 
but that highly respectable gentleman or lady, the village 
apothecary, the Nganga bilongo or the Abiabok. The 
means of killing in vogue in West African witchcraft 
without the direct employment of poison are highly in- 
teresting, but I think it would serve no good purpose 
for me to give even the few I know in detail. There 
is one interesting point in this connection. I have said 
that in order to make a charm efficacious against a 
particular person you must have preferably some of his 
blood in your possession, or, failing that, some hair or 
nail clipping ; failing these, some articles belonging in- 
timately to him — a piece of his loin-cloth, or, under the 
school of Nkissi, a bit of his iron. This I believe to 
hold good for all true fetish charms ; but we have in 
the Bight of Benin charms which are under the influence 
of a certain amount of Mohammedan ideas — for example, 
the deadly charms of the Kufong society. This class of 
charm does not require absolutely a bit of something 
nearly connected with the victim, but nevertheless it 
cannot act at a great distance, or without the element 
of personal connection. Take the Fangaree charm, for 
example, to be found among the Mendi people, and all the 
neighbouring peoples who are liable to go in for Kufong. 


Fangaree is the name of a small drum that is beaten 
by a hammer made of bamboo. The uses of this drum 
are wide and various, but it also gives its name to the 
charm, because the charm, like the drum, is beaten with 
a similar stick. The charm stuff itself is made of a 
dead man's bone, of different herbs smoked over a fire 
and powdered the same day, ants' -hill earth, and charcoal. 
This precious mixture is made into a parcel ; that parcel 
is placed on a frame made of bamboo sticks. On the 
top of the charm a small live animal — an insect, I am 
informed, will do — is secured by a string passing over 
it, and the charm is fixed with wooden forks into the 
ground on either side. This affair is placed by the 
murderer close to a path the victim will pass along, and 
the murderer sits over it, waiting for him to come. 
When he comes, he is allowed to pass just by, and then 
his enemy breaks a dry bamboo stick ; the noise causes 
the victim to turn and look in the direction of the 
noise — i.e. on to the charm — and then the murderer 
hits the live animal on it, calling his victim's name, 
and the charm is on him. If the animal is struck on the 
head, the victim's head is affected, and he has violent 
fits until " he dies from breaking his neck " in one of 
them ; if the animal is struck to tailwards, the victim 
gets extremely ill, but in this latter case he can buy 
off the charm and be cured by a Fangaree man. A 
similar arrangement is in working orderunder some South- 
West coast murder societies I am acquainted with. The 
interesting point, however, is the necessity of establish- 
ing the personal connection between the victim and 
the charm by means of making him look on the charm 
and calling his name. Without his looking it's no 
good. Hence it comes that it is held unwise to look 
behind when you hear a noise o'night in the bush ; 
indeed, no cautious person, with sense in his head and 
strength in his legs, would dream of doing this unless 
caught off guard. In connection also with this turning 
the face being necessary to the working of the Fan- 
garee charm, there is another charm that is worked 
under Kufong, according to several natives from its 


region — the hinterland of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and 
Ivory Coast — with whom I have associated when we 
have both been far from our respective homes away in 
South-Wcst Africa. It is a charm I have never met 
with as indigenous in the South-Wcst or Oil-Rivers 
Fetish, and I think it has a heavier trace of Moham- 
medan influence in it than the Fangarce charm. The 
way it works is this. A man wants to kill you without 
showing blood. Only leopard society men do that, 
and your enemy, we will presume, is not a leopard. So 
he throws his face on you by a process I need not 
enter into. You hardly know anything is wrong at 
first ; by-and-by you notice that every scene that you 
look on, night or day, has got that face in it, not a 
filmy vision of a thing, but quite material in appearance, 
only it's in abnormal places for a face to be, and it is a 
face only. It may be on the wall, or amongst the roof 
poles, or away in a corner of the hut floor ; outdoors it 
is the same — the face is first always, there just where 
you can see it. Some of my informants hold that it 
keeps coming closer to you as time goes on ; but others 
say no ; it keeps at one distance all the time. This, 
however, is a minor point ; it is its being there that gets 
to matter. It is in amongst the bushes at the side of 
the path, or in the water of the river, or at the end of 
your canoe, or in the oil in the pots, or in the Manchester 
cottons in the factory shop. Wherever you look, there it 
is. In a way it's unobtrusive, it does not spread itself 
out, or make a noise, or change, yet, sooner or later, in 
every place, you cannot miss seeing it. At first you 
think, by changing your environment — going outdoors, 
coming in, going on a journey, mixing with your fellow- 
men, or avoiding them — you can get rid of the thing ; 
but you find, when you look round — a thing you are cer- 
tain to do when the charm has got its grip — for sure 
that face is there as usual. Now this sort of thing tells 
on the toughest in time, and you get sick of life when it 
has always got that face mixed up in it, so sick that you 
try the other thing — death. This is an ill-advised course, 
but you do not know in time that, when you kill your- 


self, you will find that on the other side, in the other 
thing, you will see nothing but that face, that unchang- 
ing silent face you are so sick of. The Kufong man who 
has thrown his face at you knows, and when he hears of 
your suicide he laughs. Naturally you cannot know, 
because you are not a Kufong man, or the charm could 
not be put on you. What you "can do in this here 
most awful go," as Mr. Squeers would say, I am unfor- 
tunately not able to tell you. I made many inquiries 
from men who know " the face," who had had it happen 
on people in their families, and so on, but in answer 
to my inquiries as to why the afflicted did not buy it off, 
what charms there were against it, and so forth, I was 
always told it was a big charm, that the man who put it 
on lost something of himself by so doing, so it was 
never put on except in cases of great hatred that would 
stick at nothing and would kill ; also that it was of no real 
use for the victim to kill hischarmer, though thatindividual, 
knowing the pleasure so doing would afford his victim, 
takes good care to go on a journey, and to keep out of the 
way until the charm has worked out in suicide. There 
is a certain amount of common sense in this proceeding 
which is undoubtedly true African, but there is a sort of 
imaginative touch which makes me suspect Moham- 
medan infusion ; anyhow I leave you to judge for your- 
self whether, presupposing you accept the possibility of 
a man doing such a thing to you or to any one you love, 
you think he can be safely ignored, or whether he is not 
an enemy to society who had better be found out and 
killed — killed in a showy way. Personally I favour the 
latter course. 

There is but one other point in witchcraft in West 
Africa that I need now detain you with, and that is why 
a person killed by witchcraft suffers more than one who 
dies of old age, for herein lies another reason for this 
hatred of witchcraft. Every human soul in West Africa 
throughout all the Fetish schools is held to have a certain 
proper time of incarnation in a human body, whether it 
be one incarnation or endless series of incarnations ; any- 
thing that cuts that incarnation period short in- 


conveniences the soul, to say the least of it. Under 
Ellis's school, and I believe throughout all the others, 
the soul that lives its life in a body fully through is held 
happy ; it is supposed to have learnt its full lesson from 
life, and to know the way down to the shadowland home 
and all sorts of things. Hence also comes the respect 
for the aged, common throughout all West Africa. They 
are the knowing ones. Such an one was the late Chief 
Long John of Bonny. Now if this process of develop- 
ment is checked by witchcraft and the soul is pre- 
maturely driven from the body, it does not know all 
that it should, and its condition is therefore miserable. 
It is, as it were, sent blind, or deaf, or lame into the 
spirit-land. This is a thing not only dreaded by indi- 
viduals for themselves, but hated for those they love ; 
hence the doer of it is a hated thing. You must remem- 
ber that when you get keen hatred you must allow for 
keen affection, it is not human to have one without the 
other. That the Africans are affectionate I am fully 
convinced. This affection does not lie precisely on the 
same lines as those of Europeans, I allow. It is not with 
them so deeply linked with sex ; but the love between 
mother and child, man and man, brother and sister, 
woman and woman, is deep, true, and pure, and it must 
be taken into account in observing their institutions and 
ideas, particularly as to this witchcraft, where it shows 
violently and externally in hatred only to the superficial 
observer. I well remember gossiping with a black friend 
in a plantation in the Calabar district on witchcraft, and 
he took up a stick and struck a plant of green maize, 
breaking the stem of it, saying, " There, like that is the 
soul of a man who is witched, it will not ripen now." 

We will now turn to the consideration of that class 
whose business in life is mainly to guard the com- 
munity from witchcraft and from miscellaneous evil 
spirits acting on their own initiative, the Fetish Men of 
West Africa, namely, those men and women who devote 
their lives to the cult of West African religion. Such 
people you find in every West African district ; but 
their position differs under different schools, and it is 


in connection with them that we must recognise the 
differences in the various schools, remembering that the 
form of Fetish makes the form of Fetish Man, not the 
Fetish Man the form of Fetish. He may, as it were, 
embroider it, complicate it, mystify it, as is the nature 
of all specialists in all professions, but primarily he is 
under it, at any rate in West Africa, where you find the 
Fetish Man in every district, but in every district in a 
different form. For example, look at him under the Ellis 
school. Where there are well-defined gods, there your 
Fetish Man is quite the priest, devoting himself to the 
cult of one god publicly, probably doing a little general 
practice into the bargain with other minor spirits. To the 
laity he of course advertises the god he serves as the 
most reliably important one in the neighbourhood ; but 
it has come under my notice, and you will find under 
Ellis's, that if the priest of a god gets personally unwell 
and finds his own deity ineffective, he will apply for 
aid to a professional brother who serves another god. 
Below Ellis's school, in the Calabar school, your Fetish 
Man is somewhat different ; the gods are not so de- 
finite or esteemed, and the Fetish Man is becoming a 
member of a set of men who deal with gods in a lump, 
and have the general management of minor spirits. 
Below this school, in the Mpongwe, the Fetish Man is 
even less specialised as regards one god ; he is here a 
manager of spirits at large, with the assistance of a 
strong spirit with whom he has opened up communica- 
tion. Below this school, in that of Nkissi, the Fetish Man 
becomes more truly priest-like — he is the Nganga of an 
Nkiss ; but nevertheless his position is a different one 
to that of the priest in Ellis's school ; here he is in a 
better position than in the Mpongwe school, but in an 
inferior one to that in Ellis's, where he is not the lone 
servitor or manager for a god, but a member of a 
powerful confraternity. You must bear in mind, of 
course, that the Fetish Man is always, from a lay stand- 
point, a highly important person ; but professionally, I 
cannot but think, a priest say of Tando in Ashantee 
or of Shango in Dahomey, is of a higher grade than a 


Nganga to an Nkiss, certainly far higher than a Fetish 
Man under the Mpongwe school, where every house 
father and every village chief does a lot of his own 
Fetish without professional assistance. Of course chiefs 
and house fathers do a certain amount in all districts — 
in fact, in West Africa every man and woman does a 
certain amount of Fetish for himself; but where, as in 
Ellis's school, you get a regular set of priests and plenty 
of them, the religion falls into their hands to a greater 
extent. I feel that the study of the position of Fetish 
Men is deserving of great attention. I implore the student 
who may take it up to keep the Fetish Man for practical 
purposes distinct from the gentleman who represents the 
law-god cult — the secret tribal society. If you persist 
in mixing them, you will have in practical politics as 
fine a mess as if you mixed up your own Bench of 
Bishops with the Woolsack. I beg to contribute to the 
store of knowledge on this point sundry remarks sent 
me on most excellent native authority from the Gold 
Coast : — 

"The inhabitants of Cape Coast must congratulate 
themselves that they enjoy the protection of seventy- 
seven fetishes. Every town (and this town) has one 
fetish house or temple, often built in a square or oblong 
form of mud or swish, and thatched over, or constructed 
of sticks or poles placed in a circular form and thatched. 
In these temples several images are generally placed. 
Every Fetish Man or priest, moreover, has his private 
fetishes in his own house, one of a bird, stones encased 
by string, large lumps of cinder from an iron furnace, 
calabashes, and bundles of sticks tied together with 
string. All these are stained with red ochre and rubbed 
over with eggs. They are placed on a square platform 
and shrouded from the vulgar gaze. 

"The fetishes are regarded as spiritual intelligent 
beings who make the remarkable objects of nature their 
residence or enter occasionally into the images and 
other artificial representations which have been duly 
consecrated by certain ceremonies. It is the belief of 
this people that the fetishes not unfrequently render 


themselves visible to mortals. Thus the great fetish 
of the rock on which Cape Coast Castle stands is said 
to come forth at night in human form, but of super- 
human size, and to proceed through the town dressed 
in white to chase away evil spirits. 

" In all the countries along the Coast (Gold) the 
regular fetish day is Tuesday. The fishermen would 
expect that, were they to go out on that day, it would 
spoil their fishing. 

" The priest's office may in some cases be hereditary, 
but it is not uniformly so, for the children of Fetish Men 
sometimes refuse to devote themselves to the pursuits of 
their parents, and engage in other occupations. Any 
one may enter the office after suitable training, and 
parents who desire that their children may be instructed 
in its mysteries place them with a Fetish Man, who re- 
ceives a premium for each. The order of Fetish Men is 
further augmented by persons who declare that the 
fetish has suddenly seized on them. A series of convul- 
sive and unnatural bodily distortions establish their 
claim. Application is made to the fetish for counsel 
and aid in every domestic and public emergency. 
When persons find occasion to consult a private Fetish 
Man, they take a present of gold-dust and rum, and 
proceed to his house. He receives the presents, and 
either puts a little of the rum on the head of every 
image or pours a small quantity on the ground before 
the platform as an offering to the whole pantheon ; 
then, taking a brass pan with water in it, he sits down 
with the pan between him and the fetishes, and his 
inquirers also seat themselves to await the result. Having 
made these preparatory arrangements, looking earnestly 
into the water, he begins to snap his fingers, and address- 
ing the fetish, extols his power, telling him that the 
people have arrived to consult him, and requesting him 
to come and give the desired answer. After a time the 
Fetish Man is wrought up into a state of fury. He 
shakes violently and foams at the mouth ; this is to 
intimate that the fetish was come home and that he him- 
self is no longer the speaker, but the fetish, who uses 


his mouth and speaks by him. He now growls like a 
tiger and asks the people if they have brought rum, re- 
quiring them at the same time to present it to him. 
He drinks, and then inquires for what purpose they have 
sent for him. If a relative is ill, they reply that such 
a member of their family is sick and they have tried 
all the means they could devise to restore him, but 
without success, and they, knowing he is a great fetish, 
have come to ask his aid, and beg him to teach them 
what they should do. He then speaks kindly to them, 
expresses a hope that he shall be able to help them, 
and says, 'I go to see.' It is imagined that the fetish 
then quits the priest, and, after a silence of a few 
minutes, he is supposed to return, and gives his response 
to the inquirers. 

" In cases of great difficulty the oracle at Abrah is the 
last resort of the Fantees. This notable oracle is always 
consulted at night. They find a large fire made upon 
the ground, and the presents they have brought they 
place in the hands of the priests who are in attendance. 
They are then directed to elevate their presents above 
their heads and to fix their eyes steadfastly upon the 
ground, for should they look up, the fetish, it is said, 
would inflict blindness on them for their sacrilegious 
gaze. After a time the oracle gives a response in a 
shrill, small voice, intended to convey the idea that it 
proceeds from an unearthly source, and the inquirers, 
having obtained the end of their visit, then depart. 

" In cases of bodily affliction the fetish orders medical 
preparations for the patient. If the malady of the 
patient does not appear to yield to such applications, 
the fetish is again consulted, and in some cases, as a 
further expedient, the priest takes a fowl and ties it to 
a stick, by which operation it is barbarously squeezed to 
death. The stick is then placed in the path leading to 
the house for the purpose of deterring evil spirits from 
approaching it. When the patient is a rich man, several 
sheep are sacrificed, and he is fetished until the last 
moment arrives amidst the howls of a number of old 
Fetish Women, who continue to besmear with eggs and 


other medicine the walls and doorposts of his house 
and everything that is around him until he has ceased to 

Not only does the African depart from life under the 
care of Fetish Men — and, as my valued correspondent 
ungallantly remarks, " old Fetish Women " — but he is 
met, as it were, by them on his arrival. My corre- 
spondent says " as soon as the child is born the Fetish 
Man binds certain fetish preparations round his limbs, 
using at the same time a form of incantation or prayer. 
This is done to fortify the infant against all kinds of evil. 
On the eighth day after the birth, the father of the child, 
accompanied by a number of friends, proceeds to the 
house of the mother. If he be a rich man, he takes with 
him a gallon of ardent spirits to be used on the festive 
occasion. On arriving at the house, the friends form a 
circle round the father, who delivers a kind of address in 
which he acknowledges the kindness of the gods for 
giving him the child, and calls upon those present also 
to thank the fetishes on his account ; then, taking the 
child in his arms, he squirts upon it a little spirit from 
his mouth, pronouncing the name by which it is to be 
called. A second name which the child usually takes 
is that of the day of the week on which it is born. The 
following are the names of the days in the Fanti lan- 
guage, varied in their orthography according to the sex 
of the child : — 

Male.. Female. 

Sunday Quisi Akosua. 

Monday Kujot Ajua. 

Tuesday Quabina Abmaba. 

Wednesday Quaku Ekua. 

Thursday Ouahu Aba. 

Friday Kufi Efua. 

Saturday Qamina Ama." 

Those ceremonials called on the Coast "customs" 
are the things that show off the Fetish Man at the best 
in more senses of the word than one. We will take the 
yam custom. The intentions of these yam customs are 

L 2 


twofold — firstly they arc a thanksgiving to the fetishes for 
allowing their people to live to see the new yams, and 
for the new yams, but they are also institutions to pre- 
vent the general public eating the new yam before it's 
ready. The idea is, and no doubt rightly, that unripe 
yams are unwholesome, and the law is that no new yams 
must be eaten until the yam custom is made. The 
Fetish Men settle when the yams are in a fit state to 
pass into circulation, and then make the custom. It 
generally occurs at the end of August, but is sometimes 
kept back until the beginning of September. In Fantee 
all the inhabitants of the towns assemble under the 
shade of the grove adjoining the fetish hut, and a sheep 
and a number of fowls are killed, part of their flesh is 
mixed with boiled yams and palm-oil, and a portion of 
this mixture is placed on the heads of the images, and 
the remainder is thrown about before the fetish hut as 
a peace-offering to the deities. 

At Winnebah, on the Gold Coast, there is an interest- 
ing modification in the yam custom. The principal 
fetish of that place, it is believed, will not be satisfied 
with a sheep, but he must have a deer brought alive to 
his temple, and there sacrificed. Accordingly on the 
appointed day every year when the custom is to be 
celebrated, almost all the inhabitants except the aged 
and infirm go into the adjoining country — an open park- 
like country, studded with clumps of trees. The women 
and children look on, give good advice, and shriek when 
necessary, while the men beat the bush with sticks, beat 
tom-toms, and halloo with all their might. While thus 
engaged, my correspondent remarks in his staid way, 
" sometimes a leopard starts forth, but it is usually so 
frightened with the noise and confusion that it scampers 
off in one direction as fast as the people run from it 
in another. When a deer is driven out, the chase begins, 
the people try to run it down, flinging sticks at its legs. 
At last it is secured and carried exultingly to the town 
with shoutings and drummings. On entering the town 
they are met by the aged people carrying staves, and, 
having gone in procession round the town, they proceed 


to the fetish house, where the animal is sacrificed, and 
partly offered to the fetish, partly eaten by the priests." 

These yam customs are at their fullest in the Benin 
Bights, but you get a custom made for the new yam in 
all the districts lower down. These customs have long 
been credited with being stained by human sacrifices. 
Not altogether unjustly. You can always read human 
sacrifice for goats and fowls when you are considering 
a district inhabited by true Negroes, and the occasion is 
an important one, because in West Africa a human 
sacrifice is the most persuasive one to the fetishes. It 
is just with them as with a chief — if you want to get 
some favour from him you must give him a present. A 
fowl or a goat or a basket of vegetables, or anything 
like that is quite enough for most favours ; but if you 
want a big thing, and want it badly, you had better give 
him a slave, because the slave is alike more intrinsically 
valuable and also more useful. So far as I know, all 
human beings sacrificed pass into the service of the 
fetish they are sacrificed to. They are not merely 
killed that he may enjoy their blood, but that he may 
have their assistance. Fetishes have much to do, and 
an extra pair of hands is to them always acceptable. 
As for the importance of these harvest customs to the 
general system of Fetish, I think in West Africa it is 
small. The goings-on, the licentiousness and general 
jollification that accompany them, upsetting law and 
order for days, give them a fallacious look of import- 
ance ; but I think far more really near the heart of the 
Fetish thought-form is the lonely man who steals at 
night into the forest to gain from Sasabonsum a charm, 
and the woman who, on her way back from market, 
throws down before the fetish houses she passes a scrap 
of her purchases ; compared to the cult of the law-god, 
well, yam customs are dirty water price, palaver, and 
insignificant politically. 

I have dealt here with Fetish as far as the position of 
the human being is concerned, because this phase may 
make it more comprehensible to my fellow white men 
who regard the human being as the main thing in the 


created universe, but I must beg you to remember that 
this idea of the importance of the human race is not 
held by the African. The individual is supremely im- 
portant to himself, and he values his friends and relations 
and so on, but abstract affection for humanity at large 
or belief in the sanctity of the lives of people with whom 
he is unrelated and unacquainted, the African barely 
possesses. He is only capable of feeling this abstract 
affection when under the influence of one of the great re- 
vealed religions which place the human being higher in 
the scale of Creation. This comes from no cruelty of 
mind per se, but is the result of the hardness of the 
fight he has to fight against the world ; and possessing 
this view of the equal, if not greater importance of 
many of the things he sees round him, the African 
conceives these things also have their fetish — a fetish 
on the same ground idea, but varying from human 
fetish. The politics of Mungo mah Lobeh, the mountain, 
with the rest of nature, he believes to exist. The 
Alemba rapid has its affairs clearly, but the private 
matters of these very great people are things the human 
being had better keep out of; and it is advisable for 
him to turn his attention to making terms with them 
and go into their presence with his petition when their 
own affairs are prosperous, when their tempers are not 
as it were up over some private ultra-human affair of 
their own. I well remember the opinions expressed by 
my companions regarding the folly — mine, of course — of 
obtruding ourselves on Mungo when that noble moun- 
tain was vexed too much, and the opinion expressed by 
an Efik friend in a tornado that came down on us. Well, 
there you have this difference. I instinctively say "us." 
She did not think we were objects of interest to the 
tornado or the forest it was scourging. She took it 
they had a sort of family row on, and we might get hit 
with- the bits, therefore it was highly unfortunate that 
we were present at the meeting. Again, it is the same 
with the surf. The boat-boys see it's in a nasty temper, 
they keep out of it, it may be better to-morrow, then it 
will tolerate them, for it has no real palaver with them 


individually. Of course you can go and upset the 
temper of big nature spirits, but when you are not there 
they have their own affairs. 

Hence it comes that we have in Fetish a religion in 
which its believers do not hold that devotion to religion 
constitutes Virtue. The ordinary citizen is held to be 
most virtuous who is least mixed up in religious affairs. 
He can attain Virtue, the love and honour of his fellow- 
men, by being a good husband and father, an honest man 
in trade, a just man in the palaver-house, and he must, 
for the protection of his interests, that is to say, not only 
his individual well-being, but the well-being of those 
dependent on him, go in to a certain extent for religious 
practices. He must associate with spirits, because spirits 
are in all things and everywhere and over everything ; 
and the good citizen deals with the other spirits as he 
deals with that class of spirits we call human beings ; 
he does not cheat the big ones of their dues ; he spills 
a portion of his rum to them ; he gives them their white 
calicoes ; he treats his slave spirits honourably, and he 
uses his slave spirits for no bad purpose, and if any 
great grief falls on him he calls on the great over-lord of 
gods, mentioning these things. But men are not all 
private citizens ; there are men whose destiny puts them 
in high places — men who are not only house fathers 
but who are tribe fathers. They, to protect and further 
the interests of those under them, must venture greatly 
and further, and deal with more powerful spirits, as it 
were, their social equals in spiritdom. These good chiefs 
in their higher grade dealings preserve the same clean- 
handed conduct. And besides these there are those 
men, the Fetish Men, who devote their lives to com- 
bating evil actions through witches and miscellaneous 
spirits who prey on mankind. These men have to 
make themselves important to important spirits. It is 
risky work for them, for spirits are a risky set to deal 
with. Up here in London, when I have to deal with 
a spirit as manifest in the form of an opinion, or 
any big mind-form incarnate in one man, or in thousands, 




I often think of an African friend of mine who had 
troubles, and I think sympathetically, for his brother 
explained the affair to me. He was an educated man. 
" You see," he said, " my brother's got a strong Ju Ju, 
but it's a damned rocky Ju Ju to get on with." 



Mainly from the point of view of the native apothecary, to 
which is added some account of the sleep disease and the 
malignant melancholy. 

There is, as is in all things West African, a great 
deal of fetish ceremonial mixed up with We^; African 
medical methods. Underlying them throughout there 
is the fetish form of thought ; but it is erroneous to 
believe that all West African native doctors are witch 
doctors, because they are not. One of my Efik friends, 
for example, would no more think of calling in a witch 
doctor for a simple case of rheumatism than you would 
think of calling in a curate or a barrister ; he would just 
call in the equivalent to our general practitioner, the 
abiabok. If he grew worse instead of better, he would 
then call in his equivalent to our consulting physician, 
the witch doctor, the abiadiong. But if he started being 
ill with something exhibiting cerebral symptoms he 
would have in the witch doctor at once. 

This arises from the ground principle of all West 
African physic. Everything works by spirit on spirit, 
therefore the spirit of the medicine works on the spirit ot 
the disease. Certain diseases are combatable by certain 
spirits in certain herbs. Other diseases are caused by 
spirits not amenable to herb-dwelling spirits ; they must 
be tackled by spirits of a more powerful grade. The 


witch doctor who belongs to the school of Nkissism will 
become more profound on this matter still, and will tell 
you all herbs, indeed everything that comes out of the 
Earth, have in them some of the power of the Earth, 
Nkissi nisi ; but the general view is the less concrete 
one — that it is a matter of only certain herbs having 
power. This I have been told over and over again in 
various West Coast tongues by various West African 
physicians, and in it lies the key to their treatment 
of disease — a key without which many of their methods 
are incomprehensible, but which shows up most clearly 
in the methods of the witch doctor himself. In the 
practice of the general practitioner, or, more properly 
speaking, the apothecary, it is merely a theory, just as a 
village chemist here may prescribe blue pill without 
worrying himself about its therapeutic action from a 
scientific point of view. 

Before I pass on to the great witch doctor, the phy- 
sician, I must detain you with a brief account of the 
neglected-by-traveller-because-less-showy African village 
apothecary, a really worthy person, who exists in every 
West African district I know of ; often, as in the Calabar 
and Bonny region, a doctor whose practice extends over 
a fair-sized district, wherein he travels from village to 
village. If he comes across a case, he sits down and 
does his best with it, may be for a fortnight or a month 
at a time, and when he has finished with it and got his 
fee, off he goes again. Big towns, of course, have a resi- 
dent apothecary, but I never came across a town that 
had two apothecaries. It may be professional etiquette, 
but, though I never like to think evil of the Profession 
whatever colour its complexion may be, it may somehow 
be connected with a knowledge of the properties of 
herbs, for I observed when at Corisco that an apothecary 
from the mainland who was over there for a visit shrank 
from dining with the local medico. 

These apothecaries are, as aforesaid, learned in the 
properties of herbs, and they are the surgeons, in so far 
as surgery is ventured on. A witch doctor would not | 
dream of performing an operation. Amongst these 


apothecaries there are lady doctors, who, though a bit 
dangerous in pharmacy, yet, as they do not venture on 
surgery, are, on the whole, safer than their confreres, for 
African surgery is heroic. 

Many of the apothecaries' medical methods are fairly 
sound, however. The Dualla practitioner is truly great 
on poultices for extracting foreign substances from 
wounds, such as bits of old iron cooking pot, a very 
frequent foreign substance for a man to get into him in 
West Africa, owing to pots being broken up and used 
as bullets. Almost incredible stories are told by black 
men and white in Cameroons concerning the efficiency 
of these poultices ; one I heard from a very reliable 
white authority there of a man who had been shot with 
bits of iron pot in the thigh. The white doctor extracted 
several pieces, and declared he had got them all out ; 
but the man went on suffering and could not walk, so 
finally a country doctor was called in, and he applied 
his poultice. In a few minutes he removed it, and on 
its face lay two pieces of iron pot. The white doctor 
said they had been in the poultice all the time, but he 
did not carry public opinion with him, for the patient 
recovered rapidly. 

The Negroes do not seem to me to go in for baths 
in medical treatment quite so much as the Bantu ; they 
hold more with making many little incisions in the skin 
round a swollen joint, then encasing it with clay and 
keeping a carefully tended fire going under it. But the 
Bantu is given greatly to baths, accompanied by mas- 
sage, particularly in the treatment of that great West 
African affliction, rheumatism. The Mpongwe make a 
bath for the treatment of this disease by digging a suit- 
ably sized hole in the ground and putting into it seven 
herbs — whereof I know the native names only, not the 
scientific — and in addition in go cardamums and peppers. 
Boiling water is then plentifully poured over these, and 
the patient is laid on and covered with the parboiled 
green stuff. Next a framework of twigs is placed over 
him, and he is hastily clayed up to keep the steam in, 
only his head remaining above ground. In this bath 


he is sometimes kept a few hours, sometimes a day and 
a half. He is liable to give the traveller who may happen 
suddenly on him while under treatment the idea that he 
is an atrocity ; but he is not ; and when he is taken 
out of the bath-poultice he is rubbed and kneaded 
all over, plenty more hot water being used in the pro- 
cess, this indeed being the palladium of West Coast 

The Fjort tribe do not bury their rheumatic patients 
until they are dead and all their debts paid, but they 
employ the vapour bath. My friend, Mr. R. E. Dennett, 
who has for the past eighteen years lived amongst the 
Fjort and knows them as no other white man does, 
and knows also my insatiable thirst for any form of 
West African information, has kindly sent me some 
details of Fjort medical methods, which I give in his 
own words — " The Fjort have names for many diseases ; 
aches are generally described as tanta ki tanta ; they 
say the head suffers Ntu tanta ki tanta, the chest suffers 
Mtima tanta ki tanta, and so on. Rheumatism that 
keeps to the joints of the bones and cripples the sufferer 
is called Ngoyo, while ordinary rheumatism is called 
Macongo. They generally try to cure this disease by 
giving the sufferers vapour baths. They put the leaves 
of the Nvnka into a pot of boiling water, and place the 
pot between the legs of the patient, who is made to sit 
up. They then cover up the patient and the pot with 

"They try to relieve the local pain by spluttering 
the affected part with chalk, pepper, and logwood, and 
the leaves of certain plants that have the power of 

" Small-pox they try to cure by smearing the body of 
the patient over with the pulped leaves of the mzeuzil. 
Palm oil is also used. These patients are taken to the 
woods, where a hut is built for them, or not, according 
to the wealth and desire of their relations. If poor they 
are often allowed to die of starvation. A kind of long 
thin worm that creeps about under the eyelid is called 
Loyia, and is skilfully extracted by many of the natives 


by means of a needle or piece of wood cut to a sharp 

"Blind boils they call Fvnina, and they cure them 
by splintering over them the pulped root Nchecki, mixed 
with red and white earth. Leprosy they call Boisz, ague 
C/iiosz, matter from the ear Maftna, rupture Sajigafulta. 
But diseases of the lungs, heart liver, and spleen seem 
to puzzle the native leeches, and many natives die from 
these terrible ills. Cupping and bleeding, which they 
do with the hollow horns of the goat and the sharpened 
horn of a kid, are the remedies usually resorted to. 

" All persons are supposed to have the power to give 
their enemies these different sicknesses. Amulets, front- 
lets, bracelets, and waistbands charged with medicines 
are also used as either charms or cures. 

" A woman who was stung by a scorpion went nearly 
mad, and rushing into the river, tried to drown herself. 
I tried my best to calm her and cure her by the application 
of a few simple remedies, but she kept us awake all 
night, and we had to hold her down nearly the whole 
time. I called in a native surgeon to see if he could do 
anything, and he spluttered some medicine over her 
and, placing himself opposite to her, shouted at her and 
the evil spirit that was in her. She became calmer, and 
the surgeon left us. As I was afraid of a relapse, I sent 
the woman to be cured in a town close by. The 
Princess of the town picked out the sting of the scorpion 
with a needle, and gave the woman some herbs, which 
acted as a strong purge, and cured her. As the Nganga 
bilongo (apothecary) is busy curing the patient, he 
generally has a white fowl tied to a string fastened to a 
peg in the ground close to him. I have described this 
in Seven Years among the Fjort!' 

I think this communication of Mr. Dennett's is of much 
interest, and I hastily beg to remark that, if you have 
not got a devoted friend to hold you down all night, call 
in an apothecary in the morning time, and then hand 
you over to a Princess — things that are not always 
handy even in West Africa when you have been stung 
by a scorpion — things that, on the other hand, are 


always handy in West Africa — carbonate of soda 
applied promptly to the affected part will save you from 
wanting to drown yourself and much other in- 
convenience. The sting should be extracted regardless 
of the shedding of blood, carbonate of soda in hot water 
washed over the place, and then a poultice faced with 
carbonate of soda put on. 

Although I do not say these West African doctors 
possess any specific for rheumatism, it is an undoubted 
fact that the South-Wcst Coast tribes, with their poultices 
and vapour baths, are very successful in treating it, 
more so than the true Negroes, with their clay plaster 
and baking method. Rheumatism is a disease the 
Africans seem especially liable to, whatever may be the 
local climate, whether it be that of the reeking Niger 
Delta, or the dry delightful climate of Cabinda ; more- 
over, my friends who go whaling tell me the Bermuda 
negroes also suffer from rheumatism severely, and are " a 
perfect cuss," wanting to come and sit in the blood and 
blubber of fresh-killed whales. Small-pox is a vile 
scourge to Africa. The common treatment is to smear 
the body of the patient with the pulped leaves of the 
mzeuzil palm and with palm oil ; but I cannot say the 
method is successful, save in preventing pitting, which 
it certainly does. The mortality from this disease, par- 
ticularly among the South- West Coast tribes, is simply 
appalling. But it is extremely difficult to make the bush 
African realise that it is infectious, for he regards it as a 
curse from a great Nature spirit, sent in consequence of 
some sin, such as a man marrying within the restricted 
degree, or something of that kind. Mr. Dennett men- 
tions small-pox patients being sent into the bush with 
more or less accommodation provided. Mr. Du Chaillu 
gave Mr. Fraser the idea that the Bakele tribe habitually 
drove their small-pox sick into the bush and neglected 
them, which certainly, from my knowledge of the tribe, 
I must say is not their constant habit by any means. 
I venture to think that this rough attempt at isolation 
among the Fjort is a remnant of the influence of the 
great Portuguese domination of the kingdom of Congo 


in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, 
when the Roman Catholic missionaries got hold of the 
Fjort as no other West African has since been got hold 
of. Neverheless the keeping of the sick in huts you 
will find in almost all districts in places — i.e. round the 
house of a great doctor. My friend Miss Mary Slessor, 
of Okyon, has the bush round her compound fairly 
studded with little temporary huts, each with a patient 
in. You see, distinguished doctors everywhere are a 
little uppish, and so their patients have to come to them. 
Such doctors are usually specialists, noted for a cure of 
some particular disease, and often patients will come to 
such a man from towns and villages a week's journey 
or more away, and then build their little shantie near 
his residence, and remain there while undergoing the 

There is a prevalent Coast notion that white men do 
not catch small-pox from black, but I do not think this 
is, at any rate, completely true. I was informed when in 
Loanda that during an epidemic of it amongst the 
natives, every white man had had a more or less severe 
touch, and I have known of cases of white men having 
small-pox in other West Coast places, small-pox they 
must either have caught from natives or have made 
themselves, which is improbable. I fancy it is a matter 
connected with the vaccination state of the white, although 
there seem to be some diseases prevalent among 
natives from which whites are immune — the Yaws, for 

Less terrible in its ravages than small-pox, because it 
is far more limited in the number of its victims, is leprosy ; 
still you will always find a case or so in a district. You 
will find the victims outcasts from society, not from a 
sense of its being an infectious disease, but because it is 
confounded with another disease, held to be a curse from 
an aggrieved Nature spirit. There was at Okyon when I 
was there a leper who lived in a regular house of his own, 
not a temporary hospital hut, but a house with a planta- 
tion. He led a lonely life, having no wife or family or 
slave ; he was himself a slave, but not called on for 


service — it was just a lonely life. People would drop ii 
on him and chat, and so on, but he did not live in towi 
There was also another one there, who had his o\ 
people round him, and to whom people would send theii 
slaves, because he was regarded as a good doctor ; but 
he also had his house in the bush, and not in town. 

Undoubtedly the diseases that play the greatest con- 
tinuous havoc with black life in West Africa are small- 
pox, divers forms of pneumonia, heart-disease, and 
tetanus, the latter being largely responsible for the ter- 
rible mortality among children ; but the two West African 
native diseases most interesting to the European on 
account of their strangeness, are the malignant melan- 
choly and the sleep sickness, and strangely enough both 
these diseases seem to have their head centre in one 
region — the lower Congo. They occur elsewhere, but in 
this region they are constantly present, and now and 
again seem to take an epidemic form. Regarding the 
first-named, I am still collecting information, for I cannot 
tell whether the malignant melancholy of the lower 
Congo is one and the same with the hystero-hypochondria, 
the home-sickness of the true Negro. In the lower 
Congo I was informed that this malignant melancholy had 
the native name signifying throwing backwards, from its 
being the habit of the afflicted to throw themselves back- 
wards into water when they attempted a drowning form 
of suicide. 1 They do not, however, confine themselves to 
attempts to drown themselves only, but are equally 
given to hanging, the constant thing about all their at- 
tempts being a lack of enthusiasm about getting the 
thing definitely done : the patient seems to potter at it, 
not much caring whether he does successfully hang or 
drown himself or no, but just keeps on, as if he could 
not help doing it. This has probably given rise to the 

1 An experienced medical man from West Africa informs me 
that he considers the Africans very liable to hysterical disease, and 
he attributes the throwing backwards to the patient's desire not to 
spoil his or her face, a thing ladies are especially careful of, and 
says that turning a lady face downwards on the sand is as effica- 
cious in breaking up the hysterical fit as throwing water over their 
clothes is with us. 


native method of treating this disease — namely, hold- 
ing a meeting of the patient's responsible relations, who 
point out elaborately to him the advantages of life over 
death, and inquire of him his reasons for hankering 
after the latter. If in spite of these representations he 
persists in a course of habitual suicide, he is knocked 
on the head and thrown into the river ; for it is a 
nuisance to have a person about who is continually 
hanging himself to the house ridge pole and pulling 
the roof half off, or requiring a course of sensational 
rescues from drowning. 

The sleep disease 1 is also a strange thing. When I 
first arrived in Africa in 1893 there had just been a 
dreadful epidemic of it in the Kakongo and lower 
Congo region, and I saw a good many cases, and be- 
came much interested in it, and have ever since been 
trying to gather further information regarding it. 

Dr. Patrick Manson in his important paper 2 states 
that it has never been known to affect any one who 
has not at one time or another been resident within 
this area, and observes on its distribution that "it 
seems probable that as our knowledge of Africa ex- 
tends, this disease will be found endemic here and there 
throughout the basins of the Senegal, the Niger, the 
Congo, and their affluents. We have no information of 
its existence in the districts drained by the Nile and the 
Zambesi, nor anywhere on the eastern side of the con- 
tinent." As far as my own knowledge goes the centres 
of this disease are the Senegal and the Congo. I never 
saw a case in the Oil Rivers, nor could I hear of any, 
though I made every inquiry ; the cases I heard of 
from Lagos and the Oil Rivers were among people who 
had been down as labourers, &c, to the Congo. What 
is the reason of this I do not know, but certainly the 
people of the lower Congo are much given to all kinds 

1 Negro lethargy ; Maladie du Sommeil ; Enfermedad del sueno ; 
Nelavane (Oulof) ; Dadane (Sereres) ; Toruahebue (Mendi) ; Ntolo 

2 System of Medicine. Volume II. Edited by Dr. Clifford 
Allbntt. Macmillan & Co., 1897. 



of diseases, far more so than those inhabiting the dense 
forest regions of Congo Frangais, or the much-abused 
mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta. 

Dr. Manson says, " The sleeping sickness has been 
attributed to such things as sunstroke, beriberi, malaria, 
poison, peculiar foods, such as raw bitter manioc, and 
diseased grain; it is evident, however, that none of 
these things explains all the facts." In regard to this 
I may say I have often heard it ascribed to the manioc 
when in Kakongo, the idea being that when manioc 
was soaked in water surcharged with the poisonous ex- 
tract, it had a bad effect. Certainly in Kakongo this 
was frequently the case in many districts where water 
was comparatively scarce. The pools used for soaking 
the root in stank, and the prepared root stank, in the 
peculiar way it can, something like sour paste, with a 
dash of acetic acid, and thereby the villages stank and 
the market-places ditto, in a way that could be of no 
use to any one except a person anxious to find his home- 
stead in the dark ; but Dr. Manson's suggestion is far 
more likely to be the correct one. Against it I can only 
urge that in some districts where I am informed by 
my medical friends that Filaria perstans is very preva- 
lent, such as Calabar, the Niger, and the Ogowe, sleeping 
sickness is not prevalent. Dr. Manson says, " The fact 
that the disease can be acquired only in a comparatively 
limited area, suggests that the cause is similarly limited ; 
and the fact that the disease may develop years after 
the endemic area has been quitted, suggests that the 
cause is of such a nature that it may be carried away 
from the endemic area and remain latent, as regards its 
disease-producing qualities for a considerable period ; 
even for years." He then goes on to say, "Filaria 
perstans, so far as is known, is limited in its geographical 
distribution to Western Equatorial Africa — that is to 
say, it can be acquired there only — and it may con- 
tinue in active life for many years after its human host 
has left the country in which alone it can be acquired. 
We also know that similar entozoa in their wanderings 
Jn the tissues by accident of location, or by disease, or 


injury of their organs, not infrequently give rise to grave 
lesions in their hosts. I therefore suggest that possibly 
Filaria perstans may in some way be responsible for 
the sleeping sickness. I know that this parasite is ex- 
tremely common in certain sleeping sickness districts, 
and moreover, I have found it in the blood of a con- 
siderable number of cases of this disease — in six out of 
ten — including that described by Mackenzie. There are 
many difficulties in the way of establishing this hypo- 
thesis, but there is a sufficient inherent probability about 
it to make it well worth following up." 

The most important statement that I have been able 
to get regarding it so far, has been one sent me by Mr. 
R. E. Dennett; who says, "The sleeping sickness, though 
prevalent throughout Kakongo and Loango, is most 
common in the north of Loango and the south of Ka- 
kongo, that is north of the river Quillou and among the 

" What the cause of the sickness is, it is hard to say, 
but it is one of those scourges v/hich is ever with us. 
The natives say any one may get it, that it is not 
hereditary, and only infectious in certain stages. They 
avoid the dejecta of affected persons, but they do not 
force the native to live in the bush as they do a person 
affected by small-pox. 

"Pains in the head chiefly just above the nose are 
first experienced, and should these continue for a month 
or so it is to be expected that the disease is Madotchila^ 
or the first stage of the sleeping sickness. 

" In the word Madotchila we have the idea of a state 
of being poisoned or bewitched. At this stage the sick- 
ness is curable, but as the sick man will never admit 
that he has the sickness and will suffer excruciating 
pain rather than complain, and as it is criminal to sug- 
gest to the invalid or others that he is suffering from the 
dreadful disease, it often happens that it gets great hold 
of the afflicted and from time to time he falls down 
overcome by drowsiness. 

" Then he swells up and has the appearance of one 
suffering from dropsy, and this stage of the disease is 

M 2 


called Malazi, literally meaning thousands (Kulazi= 
one thousand, the verb Koula to become great and zi 
the productive fly). 

" This appears to be the acute stage of the disease, 
and death often occurs within eight days from the be- 
ginning of the swelling. 

"Then comes the stage Ntolotolo, meaning sleep or 
mock death. 

" The next stage is called Tchela nxela nbela, that is the 
knife cutting stage, referring to the operation of bleeding 
as part of the cure ; and the last stage of the disease is 
called Nlemba Ngornbo. Lemba means to cease. The 
rites of Lemba are those which refer to the marriage of a 
woman who swears to die with her husband, or rather to 
cease to live at the same time as he does. Ngornbo is 
the name of the native grass cloth in which, before the 
Nlele or cotton cloth of the white man appeared, the 
dead were wrapped previous to burial. Thus in the name 
Nlemba Ngornbo we have the meaning of marriage to the 
deathly winding sheet or shroud. 

" I remember how poor Sanda (a favourite servant of 
Mr. Dennett's, a Mussorong boy) was taken sick with pains 
in his head which I at first mistook for simple headache. 
As he was of great service to me I kept him in the 
factory instead of sending him to town (the custom with 
invalids in Kakongo is that they should go to their town 
to be doctored). I purged him and gave him strong and 
continued doses of quinine, and he got better ; but from 
time to time he suffered from recurring headache and 
drowsiness, and on one occasion when I was vexed at 
finding him asleep and suspecting him of dissipation, 
was going to punish him, I was informed by another 
servant that the poor fellow was suffering from the 
sleeping sickness. I at once sent him to town with 
sufficient goods to pay his doctor's bill, and his relations 
did all in their power to have him properly cured, taking 
him many miles to visit certain Ngangas famed for the 
cure of this fell disease. 

" He came back to me well and happy. The next 
year, however, the malady returned, and he went to town 


and gradually wasted away. They told me that sores 
upon one of his arms had caused him to lose a hand, 
which he lived to see buried before him. Sanda was of 
royal blood, so his body was taken across from the 
north bank to San Antonio or Sonio, on the south 
bank of the Congo, and there he was buried with his 

" Another sad case was that of a woman who lived in 
the factory. 

" As a child, it appeared afterwards, she had suffered 
from the disease, and had been cured by the good 
French doctor then resident in Landana (Dr. Lucan). I 
knew nothing of this at the time, and put her sickness 
down to drink, but got a doctor to see her. He could 
not make out what was the matter, but thought it might 
possibly be some nervous disease ; altogether we were 
completely puzzled. 

"On one occasion during my absence she nearly 
tortured one of her children to death by stabbing her 
with a needle. On my return, and when I heard what 
she had done, I was very angry with her, and turned her 
out of the factory, and shortly afterwards the poor 
creature died in the swelling state of the disease. 

" Joao (a more or less civilised native) tells me that 
one of his wives was cured of this sleeping sickness. 
She was living with him in a white man's factory when 
she had it, and on one occasion fell upon a demijohn 
and cut her back open rather seriously — the white man 
cured her so far as the wound was concerned. A native 
doctor, a Nganga of Kakamucka, later on cured the 
sleeping sickness. He first gave her an emetic, then 
each day he gave her a kind of Turkish bath ; that is, 
having boiled certain herbs in water, he placed her 
within the boiling decoction under a covering of cloth, 
making her perspire freely. Towards nightfall he 
poured some medicine up her nostrils and into her eyes, 
so that in the morning when she awoke, her eyes and 
nose were full of matter ; at the same time he cupped 
and bled her in the locality of the pain in the head. 
What the medicines were I cannot say, neither will the 


Nganga tell any one save the man he means shall 
succeed him in his office. 

" The native doctors appear to know when the disease 
has become incurable and the life of the patient is merely 
a question of a few days, for once while I was at Chili- 
nowango, on the lower Congo, I heard the village 
carpenter hammering nails into planks, and asked my 
servant what they were doing. ' Building Buite's coffin/ 
he said. ' What, is he dead?' said I. 'No, but he 
must die soon/ he answered. This statement was 
confirmed by the relations of Buite, who came to me 
for rum as my share towards his funeral expenses. 
Imagine my feelings when, shortly after this, Buite, 
swollen out of all likeness to his former self, crawled 
along to the shop and asked me for a gallon of rum to 
help him pay his doctor's bill. 

" A doctor of the Congo Free State began to take an 
interest in the sickness and asked me to persuade some 
one suffering from the disease to come and place himself 
under his care, promising that he would have a place 
apart made for him at the station, so that he could 
study the sickness and try to cure the poor fellow. 
After a good deal of trouble I got him a patient willing 
to remain with him, but owing to some red tape difficulty 
as to the supply of food for the sick man this doctor's 
good intentions came to nought. A Portuguese doctor 
here also gave his serious attention to the sleeping 
sickness, and it was reported that he had found a cure 
for it in some part of a fresh billy-goat. This good 
man wanted a special hospital to be built for him and a 
subsidy so that he might devote himself to the task he 
had undertaken. His Government, however, although 
its hospitals are far in advance of those of its neighbours 
on the Coast, could not see its way to erect such a 

All I need add to this is that I was informed that the 
disease when it had once definitely set in ran its fatal 
course in a year, but that when it came as an epidemic 
it was more rapidly fatal, sometimes only a matter of a 
few weeks, and it was this more acute form that was 


accompanied by wild delirium. Another native informant 
told me when it was bad it usually lasted only from 
twenty to forty days. 

Monteiro says the sleep disease was unknown south 
of the Congo until it suddenly attacked the town of 
Musserra, where he was told by the natives as many as 
200 died of it in a few months. This was in 1870, and 
curious to say it did not spread to the neighbouring 
towns. Monteiro induced the natives to remove from 
the old town, and the mortality decreased till the disease 
died out. " There was nothing in the old town to 
account for this sudden singular epidemic. It was 
beautifully clean and well-built on high dry ground, 
surrounded by mandioca plantations, the last place to 
all appearance to expect such a curious outbreak." * 

Monteiro also observes that "there is no cure known for 
it," but he is speaking for Angola, and I think this 
strengthens his statement that it is a comparatively 
recent importation there. For certainly there are cures, 
if not known, at any rate believed in, for the sleeping 
sickness in its own home Kakongo and Loango. There 
is a great difference in the diseases, flora and fauna, of 
the north and south banks of the Congo — whether owing 
to the difficulty of crossing the terrifically rapid and 
powerful stream of the great river I do not know. Still 
there was — more in former times than now — much 
intercourse between the natives of the two banks when 
the Portuguese discovered the Congo in 1487. The town 
called now San Antonio was the throne town of the 
kingdom of Kongo, and had nominally as provinces the 
two districts Kakongo and Loango, these provinces that 
are now the head centres of the sleep disease. Yet in 
the early accounts given of Kongo by the Catholic 
missionaries, who lived in Kongo among the natives, I 
have so far found no mention of the sleep disease. It is 
impossible to believe that Merolla, for example, could 
have avoided mentioning it if he had seen or heard of it. 
Merolla's style of giving information was, like my own, 
diffuse. Certainly we must remember that these Catholic 

1 Angola and the River Congo. Macmillan. Vol. i., p. 144. 

168 AFRICAN MEDICINE chap, vm 

missionaries were not much in Loango and Kakongo, as 
those provinces had broken almost entirely away from 
the Kongo throne prior to the Portuguese arrival, so 
perhaps all we can safely say is that in the 15 — 17th 
centuries there was no sleep disease in the districts on 
the south bank of the Congo, and it was not anything 
like so notoriously bad in the districts on the north 

Before quitting the apothecary part of this affair, 1 
may just remark that if you, being white, of a nervous 
disposition, and merely in possession of an ordinary 
amount of medical knowledge, find yourself called in to 
doctor an African friend or acquaintance, you must be 
careful about hot poultices. I should say, never prescribe 
hot poultices. An esteemed medical friend, since dead, 
told me that when he first commenced practice in West 
Africa he said to a civilised native who was looking after 
his brother — the patient — " Give him a linseed poultice 
made like this" — demonstration — "and mind he has it 
hot." The man came back shortly afterwards to say his 
brother had been very sick, but was no better, though 
every bit of the stuff had been swallowed so hot it had 
burnt his mouth. But swallowing the poultice is a minor 
danger to its exhibition. Even if you yourself see it 
put on outside, carefully, exactly where that poultice 
ought to be, the moment your back is turned the patient 
feeling hot gets into the most awful draught he can find, 
or into cold water, and the consequences are inflam- 
mation of the lungs and death, and you get the credit of 
it. The natives themselves you will find are very clever 
at doctoring in their own way, by no means entirely 
depending on magic and spells ; and you will also find 
they have a strong predilection for blisters, cupping and 
bleeding, hot water and emetics ; in all their ailments, 
and on the whole it suits them very well. Therefore I 
pray you add your medical knowledge and your special 
drugs to theirs, and for outside applications stick to 
blisters in place of hot poultices. 



African Medicine mainly from the point of view of the Witch 


We will now leave the village apothecary and his 
methods, and turn to the witch doctor, the consult- 
ing physician. He of course knows all about the thera- 
peutic action of low-grade spirits, such as dwell in herbs 
and so on ; but he knows more — namely the actions 
of higher spirits on the human soul, and the disorders 
of the human soul into the bargain. 

The dogma that rules his practice is that in all cases 
of disease in which no blood is showing, the patient is 
suffering from something wrong in the soul. In order 
to lay this dogma fairly before you, I should here dis- 
course on the nature of spirits unallied to the human 
soul — non-human spirits — and the nature of the human 
spirit itself; but as on the one hand, I cannot be hasty 
on such an important group of subjects, and, on the 
other, I cannot expect you to be anything else in such 
a matter, I forbear, and merely beg to remark that the 
African does not believe in anything being soulless, he 
regards even matter itself as a form of soul, low, because 
not lively, a thing other spirit forms use as they please 
practically as the garment of the spirit that uses it. This 
conception is, as far as I know, constant in both Negro 
and Bantu. I will therefore here deal only with what 


the African regards as merely one class of spirits — an 
important class truly, but above it there are at least two 
more important classes, while beneath it in grade there 
are, I think, about eleven, and equal to it, but differing 
in nature, several classes — I don't exactly know how 
many. This class of spirits is the human soul — the Kla 
of the true Negro, the Manu of the Bantu. These 
human souls are also of different grades, for one sort is 
believed to be existent before birth, as well as during life 
and after death, while other classes are not. There is 
more interesting stuff here, but I am determined to 
stick to my main point now — the medical. Well, the 
number of souls possessed by each individual we call 
a human being is usually held to be four — (i) the soul 
that survives, (2) the soul that lives in an animal away 
wild in the bush, (3) the shadow cast by the body, (4) 
the soul that acts in dreams. I believe that the more 
profound black thinkers hold that these last-named 
souls are only functions of the true soul, but from the 
witch doctor's point of view there are four, and he acts 
on this opinion when doctoring the diseases that afflict 
these souls of a man. 

The dream-soul is the cause of woes unnumbered to 
our African friend, and the thing that most frequently 
converts him into that desirable state, from a witch 
doctor's point of view of a patient. It is this way. The 
dream-soul is, to put it very mildly, a silly flighty thing. 
Off it goes when its owner is taking a nap, and gets so 
taken up with sky-larking, fighting, or gossiping with 
other dream-souls that sometimes it does not come 
home to its owner when he is waking up. So, if any 
one has to wake a man up great care must always 
be taken that it is done softly — softly, namely gradu- 
ally and quietly, so as to give the dream-soul time to 
come home. For if either of the four souls of a man 
have their intercommunication broken, the human being 
possessing them gets very ill. We will take an example. 
A man has been suddenly roused by some cause or other 
before that dream-soul has had time to get into quarters. 
That human being feels very ill, and sends for the witch 


doctor. The medical man diagnoses the case as one of 
absence of dream-soul, instantly claps a cloth over the 
mouth and nose, and gets his assistant to hold it there 
until the patient gets hard on suffocated ; but no matter, 
it's the proper course of treatment to pursue. The witch 
doctor himself gets ready, as rapidly as possible another 
dream-soul, which if he is a careful medical man, he has 
brought with him in a basket. Then the patient is laid 
on his back and the cloths removed from the mouth and 
nose, and the witch doctor holds over them his hands 
containing the fresh soul, blowing hard at it so as to get 
it well into the patient. If this is successfully accom- 
plished, the patient recovers. Occasionally, however, 
this fresh soul slips through the medical man's fingers, 
and before you can say "Knife" is on top of some 100- 
feet-high or more silk cotton tree, where it chirrups gaily 
and distinctly. This is a great nuisance. The patient 
has to be promptly covered up again. If the doctor 
has an assistant with him, that unfortunate individual 
has to go up the tree and catch the dream-soul. If he 
has no assistant, he has to send his power up the tree 
after the truant ; doctors who are in full practice have 
generally passed the time of life when climbing up trees 
personally is agreeable. When, however, the thing has 
been re-captured and a second attempt to insert it is 
about to be made, it is held advisable to get the patient's 
friends and relatives to stand round him in a ring and 
howl lustily, while your assistant also howling lustily, 
but in a professional manner, beats a drum. This pre- 
vents the soul from bolting again, and tends to frighten 
it into the patient. 

In some obstinate cases of loss of dream-soul, how- 
ever, the most experienced medical man will fail to get 
the fresh soul inserted. It clings to his fingers, it whisks 
back into the basket or into his hair or clothes, and it 
chirrups dismally, and the patient becomes convulsed. 
This is a grave symptom, but the diagnosis is quite 
clear. The patient has got a sisa in him, so there is no 
room for the fresh soul. 

Now, a sisa is a dreadful bad thing for a man to 


have in him, and an expensive thing to get out. It 
is the surviving soul of a person who has not been 
properly buried — not had his devil made, in fact. 
And as every human surviving soul has a certain 
allotted time of existence in a human body before it 
can learn the dark and difficult way down to Srah- 
mandazi, if by mischance the body gets killed off 
before the time is up, that soul unless properly buried 
and sent on the way to Srahmandazi, or any other Hades, 
under expert instruction given as to the path for the 
dead, becomes a sisa, and has to hang about for the 
remaining years of its term of bodily life. 

These ensisa are held to be so wretchedly un- 
comfortable in this state that their tempers become 
perfect wrecks, and they grow utterly malignant, con- 
tinually trying to get into a human body, so as to finish 
their term more comfortably. Now, a. sisa' s chief chance 
of getting into a body is in whipping in when there is a 
hole in a man's soul chamber, from the absence of his 
own dream-soul. If a sisa were a quiet, respectable 
soul that would settle down, it would not matter much, 
for the dream-soul it supplants is not of much account. 
But a sisa is not. At the best, it would only live out its 
remaining term, and then go off the moment that term 
was up, and most likely kill the souls it had been 
sheltering with by bolting at an inconvenient moment. 
This was the verdict given on the death of a man I 
knew who, from what you would call faintness, fell down 
in a swamp and was suffocated. Inconvenient as this 
is, the far greater danger you are exposed to by having 
a sisa in you lies in the chances being 10 to I that it is 
stained with blood, for, without being hard on these un- 
fortunate unburied souls, I may remark that respectable 
souls usually get respectably buried, and so don't become 
ensisa. This blood which is upon it the devils that are 
around smell and go for, as is the nature of devils ; and 
these devils whip in after the sisa soul into his host in 
squads, and the man with such a set inside him is 
naturally very ill — convulsions, delirium, high tempera- 
ture, &c, and the indications to your true witch doctor 


are that that sisa must be extracted before a new 
dream-soul can be inserted and the man recover. 

But getting out a sisa is a most trying operation. 
Not only does it necessitate a witch doctor sending in 
his power to fetch it vi et armis, it also places the 
medical man in a position of grave responsibility regard- 
ing its disposal when secured. The methods he em- 
ploys to meet this may be regarded as akin to those of 
antiseptic surgery. All the people in the village, par- 
ticularly babies and old people — people whose souls are 
delicate — must be kept awake during the operation, and 
have a piece of cloth over the nose and mouth, and 
every one must howl so as to scare the sisa off them, if 
by mischance it should escape from the witch doctor. 
An efficient practitioner, I may remark, thinks it a 
great disgrace to allow a sisa to escape from him ; and 
such an accident would be a grave blow to his practice, 
for people would not care to call in a man who was 
liable to have this occur. However, our present medical 
man having got the sisa out, he has still to deal with the 
question of its disposal before he can do anything more. 
The assistant blows a new dream-soul into the patient, 
and his women see to him ; but the witch doctor just 
holds on to the sisa like a bulldog. 

Sometimes the disposal of the sisa has been decided 
on prior to its extraction. If the patient's family are 
sufficiently well off, they agree to pay the doctor enough 
to enable him to teach the sisa the way to Hades. In- 
deed, this is the course respectable medical men always 
insist on, although it is expensive to the patient's family. 
But there are, I regret to say, a good many unprincipled 
witch doctors about who will undertake a case cheap. 

They will carry off with them the extracted sisa for 
a small fee, then shortly afterwards a baby in the village 
goes off in tetanic convulsions. No one takes much 
notice of that, because it's a way babies have. Soon 
another baby is born in the same family — polygamy 
being prevalent, the event may occur after a short in- 
terval — well, after giving the usual anxiety and expense, 
that baby goes off in convulsions. Suspicion is aroused. 

i 7 4 THE WITCH DOCTOR chap. 

Presently yet another baby appears in the family, keeps 
all right for a week may be, and then also goes off in 
convulsions. Suspicions are confirmed. The worm — 
the father, I mean — turns, and he takes the body of 
that third baby and smashes one of its leg bones before 
it is thrown away into the bush ; for he knows he has 
got a wanderer soul — namely, a sisa, which some unprin- 
cipled practitioner has sent into his family. He just 
breaks the leg so as to warn the soul he is not a man to 
be trifled with, and will not have his family kept in a 
state of perpetual uproar and expense. It sometimes 
happens, however, in spite of this that, when his fourth 
baby arrives, that too goes off in convulsions. Thoroughly 
roused now, paterfamilias sternly takes a chopper and 
chops that infant's remains up extremely small, and it 
is scattered broadcast. Then he holds he has eliminated 
that sisa from his family finally. 

I am informed, however, that the fourth baby to arrive 
in a family afflicted by a sisa does not usually go off 
in convulsions, but that fairly frequently it is born lame, 
which shows that it is that wanderer soul back with its 
damaged leg. It is not treated unkindly but not taken 
much care of, and so rarely lives many years — from the 
fetish point of view, of course, only those years remaining 
of its term of bodily life out of which some witchcraft 
of man or some vengeance of a god cheated it. 

If I mention the facts that when a man wakes up in 
the morning feeling very stiff and with "that tired feeling" 
you see mentioned in advertisements in the newspapers, 
he holds that it arises from his own dream-soul having 
been out fighting and got itself bruised ; and that if he 
wakes up in a fright, he will jump up and fire off his 
gun, holding that a pack of rag-tag devils have been 
chasing his soul home and wishing to scare them off, I 
think I may leave the complaints of the dream-soul 
connected with physic and pass on to those connected 
with surgery. 

Now, devoted as I am to my West African friends, I 
am bound in the interests of Truth to say that many 
of them are sadly unprincipled. There are many witches, 


not witch doctors, remember, who make it a constant 
practice to set traps for dream- souls. Witches you will 
find from Sierra Leone to Cameroons, but they are 
extra prevalent on the Gold Coast and in Calabar. 

These traps are usually pots containing something 
attractive to the soul, and in this bait are concealed 
knives or fish-hooks — fish-hooks when the witch wants 
to catch the soul to keep, knives when the desire is just 
to injure it. 

In the case of the lacerated dream-soul, when it returns 
to its owner, it makes him feel very unwell ; but the 
symptoms are quite different from those arising from 
loss of the dream-soul or from a sisa. 

The reason for catching dream-souls with hooks is 
usually a low mercenary one. You see, many patients 
insist on having their own dream-soul put back into them 
— they don't want a substitute from the doctor's store — 
so of course the soul has to be bought from the witch 
who has got it. Sometimes, however, the witch is the 
hireling of some one intent on injuring a particular 
person and keen on capturing the soul for this purpose, 
though too frightened to kill his enemy outright. So 
the soul is not only caught and kept, but tortured, hung 
up over the canoe fire and so on, and thus, even if the 
patient has another dream-soul put in, so long as his 
original soul is in the hands of a torturer, he is uncom- 

On one occasion, for example, I heard one of the Kru- 
boys who were with me making more row in his sleep, 
more resounding slaps and snores and grunts than even 
a normal Kruboy does, and, resolving in my mind that 
what that young man really required was one of my 
pet pills, I went to see him. I found him asleep under a 
thick blanket and with a handkerchief tied over his face. 
It was a hot night, and the man and his blanket were as 
wet with sweat as if they had been dragged through a 
river. I suggested to the head-man that the handkerchief 
muzzle should come off, and was informed by him that 
for several nights previously the man had dreamt of that 
savoury dish, crawfish seasoned with red pepper. He 


had become anxious, and consulted the head-man, who 
decided that undoubtedly some witch was setting a trap 
for his dream-soul with this bait, with intent, &c. Care 
was now being taken to, as it were, keep the dream-soul 
at home. I of course did not interfere, and the patient 
completely recovered. 

We will now pass on to diseases arising from disorders 
in the other three souls of a man. The immortal or 
surviving soul is liable to a disease that its body suffered 
from during its previous time on earth, born again with 
it. Such diseases are quite incurable, and I only per- 
sonally know of them in the Calabar and Niger Delta, 
where reincarnation is strongly believed in. 

Then come the diseases that arise from injury to 
the shadow-soul. It strikes one as strange at first to 
see men who have been walking, say, through forest or 
grass land on a blazing hot morning quite happily, on 
arrival at a piece of clear ground or a village square, 
most carefully go round it, not across, and you will soon 
notice that they only do this at noontime, and learn that 
they fear losing their shadow. I asked some Bakwiri 
I once came across who were particularly careful in this 
matter, why they were not anxious about losing their 
shadows when night came down and they disappeared 
in the surrounding darkness, and was told that that was 
all right, because at night all shadows lay down in the 
shadow of the Great God, and so got stronger. Had 
I not seen how strong and long a shadow, be it of man 
or tree or of the great mountain itself, was in the early 
morning time ? Ah me ! I said, the proverb is true 
that says the turtle can teach the spider. I never 
thought of that. 

Murders are sometimes committed by secretly driving 
a nail or knife into a man's shadow, and so on ; but if 
the murderer be caught red-handed at it, he or she 
would be forthwith killed, for all diseases arising from 
the shadow-soul are incurable. No man's shadow is like 
that of his own brother, says the proverb. 

Now we come to that very grave class of diseases 
which arise from disorders of the bush-soul. These 



diseases are not all incurable, nevertheless they are 
very intractable and expensive to cure. This bush- 
soul is, as I have said, resident in some wild animal 
in the forest. It may be in only an earth pig, or it 
may be in a leopard, and, quite providentially for 
the medical profession no layman can see his own 
soul — it is not as if it were connected with all earth 
pigs, or all leopards, as the case may be, but it is in 
one particular earth pig or leopard or other animal — so 
recourse must be had to medical aid when anything 
goes wrong with it. It is usually in the temper that the 
bush-soul suffers. It is liable to get a sort of aggrieved 
neglected feeling, and want things given it. When 
you wander about the wild gloomy forests of the 
Calabar region, you will now and again come across, 
far away from all human habitation or plantation, 
tiny huts, under whose shelter lies some offering or 
its remains. Those are offerings administered by 
direction of a witch doctor to appease a bush-soul. 
For not only can a witch doctor see what particular 
animal a man's bush-soul is in, but he can also see 
whereabouts in the forest that animal is. Still, these 
bush-souls are not easily appeased. The worst of it 
is that a man may be himself a quiet steady man, 
careful of his diet and devoted to a whole skin, and 
yet his bush-soul be a reckless blade, scorning danger, 
and thereby getting itself shot by some hunter or killed 
in a trap or pit ; and if his bush-soul dies, the man it is 
connected with dies. Therefore if the hunter who has 
killed it can be found out — a thing a witch doctor 
cannot do unless he happens by chance to have had 
his professional eye on that bush-soul at the time of the 
catastrophe ; because, as it were, at death the bush-soul 
ceases to exist — that hunter has to pay compensation to 
the family of the deceased. On the other hand, if the 
man belonging to the bush-soul dies, the bush-soul 
animal has to die too. It rushes to and fro in the 
forest — "can no longer find a good place." If it sees a 
fire, it rushes into that ; if it sees a lot of hunters, it 
rushes among them — anyhow, it gets itself killed off. 


We will now turn our attention to that other great 
division of diseases — namely such as are caused only 
and directly by human agency. Those I have already 
detained you too long over are caused by spirits acting 
on their own account, for even in the case of the trapped 
dream-souls they are held themselves to have shown 
contributory negligence in getting hooked or cut 
in traps. 

The others arise from what is called witchcraft. You 
will often hear it said that the general idea among 
savage races is that death always arises from witch- 
craft ; but I think, from what I have said regarding 
diseases arising from bush-souls' bad tempers, from 
contracting a sisa, from losing the shadow at high 
noon, and from, it may be, other causes I have not 
spoken of, that this generalisation is for West Africa 
too sweeping. But undoubtedly sixty per cent of the 
deaths are believed to arise from witchcraft. I would 
put the percentage higher, were it not for the terrible 
mortality from tetanus among children, which sometimes 
is and sometimes is not put down to witchcraft, and 
the mortality from smallpox and the sleep disease down 
south in Loango and Kakongo, those diseases not being 
in any case that I have had personal acquaintance with 
imputed to witchcraft at all. Indeed I venture to think 
that any disease that takes an epidemic form is re- 
garded as a scourge sent by some great outraged nature 
spirit not a mere human dabbler in devils. I have 
dealt with witchcraft itself elsewhere, therefore now I 
only speak regarding it medically ; and I think, roughly 
speaking, not absolutely, mind you, that the witching 
something out of a man is the most common iniquity of 
witchcraft from Cape Juby to Cameroons, the region of 
the true Negro stock ; while from Cameroons to Ben- 
guella — the limit of my knowledge to the south on the 
western side of the continent — the most common iniquity 
of witchcraft is witching something into him. As in the 
diseases arising from the loss of the dream-soul I have 
briefly dealt with the witching something out, I now 
turn to the witching something in. 


I well remember, in 1893, being then new to and easily 
alarmed by the West Coast, going into a village in Ka- 
kongo one afternoon and seeing several unpleasant- 
looking objects stuck on poles. Investigation showed 
they were the lungs, livers, or spleens of human beings ; 
and local information stated that they were the powers 
of witches — witches that had been killed, and on exam- 
ination found to have inside them these things, dangerous 
to the state and society at large. Hence it was the 
custom to stick these things up on poles as warnings 
to the general public not to harbour in their individual 
interiors things to use against their fellow creatures. 
They mutely but firmly said — " See ! if you turn witch, 
your inside will be stuck on a pole." 

I may remark that in many districts of the South- 
West coast and middle Congo it is customary when a 
person dies in an unexplainable way, namely without 
shedding blood, to hold a post-mortem. In some cases 
the post-mortem discloses the path of the witch through 
the victim — usually, I am informed, the injected witch 
feeds on the victim's lungs — in other cases the post- 
mortem discloses the witch power itself, demonstrating 
that the deceased was a keeper of witch power, or, as we 
should say, a witch. 

Once when I was at Batanga a woman dropped down 
on the beach and died. The usual post-mortem was 
held, and local feeling ran high. " She no complain, 
she no say nothing, and then she go die one time." 
The post-mortem disclosed what I think you would term 
a ruptured aneurism of the aorta, but the local verdict 
was " she done witch herself" — namely that she was a 
witch, who had been eaten by her own power, therefore 
there were great rejoicings over her death. 

This dire catastrophe is, however, liable to overtake 
legitimate medical men. All reasonable people in 
every clime allow a certain latitude to doctors. They 
are supposed to know things other people need not, and 
to do things, like dissections and such, that other people 
should not, and no one thinks any the worse of them. 
This is the case with the African physician, whom we 

N 2 


roughly call the witch doctor, but whose full title is the 
combatant of the evils worked by witches and devils 
on human souls and human property. This medical 
man has, from the exigencies of his profession, to keep in 
his own inside a power, and a good strong one at that, 
which he can employ in his practice by sending it into 
patients to fetch out other witch powers, sisas, or any 
miscellaneous kind of devil that may have got into them. 
His position is totally different from that of the layman. 
He is known to possess a witch power, and the knowledge 
of how to employ it ; but instead of this making him an 
object of aversion to his fellow-men, it secures for him 
esteem and honour, and the more terrifically powerful 
his power is known to be, the more respect he gains ; for 
suppose you were taken ill by a real bad devil, you 
would prefer a medical man whose power was at least 
up to that devil's fighting weight. 

Nevertheless his having to keep the dangerous devil 
in his own inside exposes the witch doctor to grave 
personal danger, for if, from a particularly healthy season, 
or some notorious quack coming into his district, his 
practice falls off, and his power is thereby not kept fed, 
that unfortunate man is liable to be attacked by it. This 
was given me as the cause of the death of a great doctor 
in the Chiloango district, and I heard the same thing 
from the Ncomi district, so it is clear that many eminent 
men are cut off in the midst of their professional career 
in this way. 

As for what this power is like in its corporal form, I 
can only say that it is evidently various. One witch 
doctor I know just to the north of Loango always made 
it a practice to give his patients a brisk emetic as soon as 
he was called in, and he always found young crocodiles 
in the consequences. I remember seeing him in one case 
secure six lively young crocodiles that had apparently 
been very recently hatched. These were witch powers. 
Again, I was informed of a witch who was killed near the 
Bungo River having had found inside him a thing like a 
lizard, but with wings like a bat. The most peculiar 
form of witch power I have heard of as being found 


inside a patient was on the Ogowe from two native 
friends, both of them very intelligent, reliable men, one 
of them a Bible reader. They said that about two years 
previously a relation of theirs had been badly witched. 
A doctor had been called in, who administered an emetic, 
and there appeared upon the scene a strange little animal 
that grew with visible rapidity. An hour after its coming 
to light it crawled and got out of the basin, and finally 
it flew away. It had bat's wings and a body and tail 
like a lizard. This catawampus, my informant held, had 
been witched into the man when it was " small, small " 
— namely, very small. It might, they thought, have 
been given to their relation in some food or drink by an 
enemy, but for sure, if it had not been disturbed by that 
emetic, it would have grown up inside the man and have 
eaten its way out through his vitals. 

From the whole of the above statements I think I 
have shown you that if as a witch doctor you are called 
in to a patient who is ill, but who is not showing blood 
anywhere, your diagnosis will be that he has got some 
sort or another of devil the matter with him, and that the 
first indication is to find out who put that devil in, 
because, in the majority of cases, until you know this you 
can't get it out ; the second is to get it out ; the third is 
to prevent its getting adrift, and into some one else. 

I have only briefly sketched the ideas and methods of 
witch doctors in West Africa, in so far as treatment is 
concerned. The infinite variety of methods employed 
in detecting who has been the witch in a given case ; 
the infinite variety of incantations and so on, I have 
no space to dwell on here, and will conclude by giving 
you a general sketch of the career of a witch doctor. 

We will start with the medical student stage. Now, 
every West African tribe has a secret society — two, in 
fact, one for men and one for women. Every free man 
has to pass through the secret society of his tribe. If 
during this education the elders of this society discover 
that a boy is what is called in Calabar an ebumtup — a 
person who can see spirits — the elders of the society 
advise that he should be brought up to the medical 


profession. Their advice is generally taken, and the 
boy is apprenticed as it were to a witch doctor, who 
requires a good fee with him. This done, he proceeds 
with his studies, learns the difference between the 
dream-soul basket and the one sisas are kept in —a 
mistake between the two would be on a par with 
mistaking oxalic acid for Epsom salts. He is then 
taught how to howl in a professional way, and, by 
watching his professor, picks up his bedside manner. 
If he can acquire a showy way of having imitation 
epileptic fits, so much the better. In fact, as a medical 
student, you have to learn pretty well as much there as 
here. You must know the dispositions, the financial 
position, little scandals, &c, of the inhabitants of the 
whole district, for these things are of undoubted use in 
divination and the finding of witches, and in addition 
you must be able skilfully to dispense charms, and know 
what babies say before their own mothers can. Then 
some day your professor and instructor dies, his own 
professional power eats him, or he tackles a disease- 
causing spirit that is one too many for him, and on 
you descend his paraphernalia and his practice. 

It is usual for a witch-doctor to acquire for his power 
a member of one of the higher grade spirit classes — 
he does not acquire a human soul — and his successor 
usually, I think, takes the same spirit, or, at any rate, a 
member of the same class. This does not altogether 
limit you as a successor to a certain line of practice, but, 
as no one spirit can do all things, it tends to make you a 
specialist. I know a district where, if any one wanted a 
canoe charm, they went to one medical man ; if a charm 
to keep thieves off their plantation, to another. 

This brings us to the practice itself, and it may be 
divided into two divisions. First, prophylactic methods, 
namely, making charms to protect your patients' wives, 
children, goats, plantations, canoes, &c, from damage, 
houses from fire, &c. &c, and to protect the patient 
himself from wild animals and all danger by land or 
water. This is a very paying part, but full of anxiety. 
For example, put yourself in the place of a Mpongwe 


medical friend of mine. You have with much trouble 
got a really valuable spirit to come into a paste made of 
blood and divers things, and having made it into a 
sausage form, and done it round with fibre wonderfully 
neatly, you have painted it red outside to please the 
spirits — because spirits like red, they think it's blood. 
Well, in a week or so, the man you administered it to 
comes back and says " that thing's no good." His 
paddle has broken more often than before he had the 
thing. The amount of rocks, and floating trees, to say 
nothing of snags, is, he should say, about double the 
normal, whereby he has lost a whole canoe load of 
European goods, and, in short, he doesn't think much of 
you as a charm maker. Then he expectorates and sulks 
offensively. You take the charm, and tell him it was a 
perfectly good one when you gave it him, and you never 
had any complaints before, but you will see what has 
gone wrong with it. Investigation shows you that the 
spirit is either dead or absent. In the first case it has 
been killed by a stronger spirit of its own class ; in the 
second lured away by bribery. Now this clearly points 
to your patient's having a dangerous and powerful 
enemy, and you point it out to him and advise him to 
have a fresh and more powerful charm — necessarily more 
expensive — with as little delay as possible. He grumbles, 
but, realising the danger, pays up, and you make him 
another. The old one can be thrown away, like an 
empty pill-box. 

The other part of your practice — the clinical — con- 
sists in combating those witches who are always up 
to something — sucking blood of young children, putting 
fearful wild fowl into people to eat up their most valued 
viscera, or stealing souls o' nights, blighting crops, &c. 

Therefore you see the witch doctor's life is not an 
idle one ; he has not merely to humbug the public and 
pocket the fees — or I should say " bag," pockets being 
rare in this region — but he works very hard, and has his 
anxieties just like a white medical man. The souls that 
get away from him are a great worry. The death of 
every patient is a danger to a certain extent, because the 


patient's soul will be vicious to him until it is buried. 
But I must say I profoundly admire our West African 
witch doctors for their theory of sisas as an explanation 
of their not always being able to insert a new soul 
into a patient, for by this theory they save themselves 
somewhat, and do not entail on themselves the treatment 
their brother medicos have to go through on the Nass 
River in British Columbia. According to Mr. Frazer, 
in that benighted Nass River district those native 
American doctors hold it possible that a doctor may 
swallow a patient's soul by mistake. This is their theory 
to account for the strange phenomenon of a patient 
getting worse instead of better when a doctor has been 
called in, and so the unfortunate doctor who has had 
this accident occur is made to stand over his patient 
while another medical man thrusts his fingers in his 
throat, another kneads him in the abdomen, and a third 
medical brother slaps him on the back. All the doctors 
present have to go through the same ordeal, and if the 
missing soul does not turn up the party of doctors go 
to the head doctor's house to see if by chance he has 
got it in his box. All the things are taken out of the 
box, and if the soul is not there, the head doctor, the 
President of the College of Physicians, the Sir Somebody 
Something of the district, is held by his heels with his 
learned head in a hole in the floor, while the other 
doctors wash his hair. The water used is then taken 
and poured over the patient's head. 

I told this story to all the African witch doctors I 
knew. I fear, that being hazy in geography, they think 
it is the practice of the English medical profession ; 
but, anyhow every one of them regarded the doctors of 
the Nass River as a set of superstitious savages, and 
imbeciles at that. Of course a medical man had to see 
to souls, but to go about in squads, administer rough 
emetics to themselves, instead of to the patients, and as 
for that head washing — well, people can be fool too 
much ! None of them showed the slightest signs of 
adopting the British Columbia method, none of them 
showed even any signs of adopting my suggestion that 


they should go and teach those benighted brothers of 
theirs the theory of insisa. 

If you ask me frankly whether I think these African 
witch doctors believe in themselves, I think I must say, 
Yes ; or perhaps it would be safer to say they believe in the 
theory they work by, for of that there can be very little 
doubt. I do not fancy they ever claim invincible power 
over disease ; they do their best according to their lights. 
It would be difficult to see why they should doubt their 
own methods, because, remember, all their patients do 
not die ; the majority recover. I am not putting this 
recovery down to their soul-treatment method, but to 
the village apothecary, who has usually been doctoring 
the patient with drugs before the so-called witch doctor 
is called in. Of course the apothecary does not get the 
credit of the cure in this case, but I fancy he deserves it. 
Another point to be remembered is that the Africans 
on the West Coast, at any rate, are far more liable than 
white men to many strange nervous disorders, especially 
to delirium, which often occurs in a comparatively slight 
illness. Why I do not pretend to understand ; but I 
think in these nervous cases the bedside manners of a 
witch doctor — though strongly resembling that of the 
physician who attended the immortal Why Why's mother 
— may yet be really useful. 

As to the evil these witch doctors do in the matter of 
getting people killed for bewitching it is difficult to speak 
justly. I fancy that, on the whole, they do more good 
than harm, for remember witchcraft in these districts is 
no parlour game ; in the eyes of Allah as well as man 
it is murder, for most of it is poison. Most witchcraft 
charms I know of among people who have not been in 
contact with Mohammedanism have always had that 
element of mixing something with the food or drink — 
even in that common, true Negro form of killing by 
witchcraft, putting medicine in the path, there is a pois- 
oned spike as well as charm stuff. There can be no 
doubt that the witch doctor's methods of finding out 
who has poisoned a person are effective, and that the 
knowledge in the public mind of this detective power 




keeps down poisoning to a great extent. Of the safe- 
guards against unjust accusation I will speak when 
treating of law. 

As to their using hypnotism, I suppose they do use 
something of the sort at times. West Indians, with 
whom I was always anxious to talk on the differences 
and agreements between Voudou and Obeah and their 
parent West African religion, certainly, in their descrip- 
tion of what they called Wanga — and translated as 
Glamour — seemed to point to this ; but for myself, save 
in the case of blood coming before, one case of which I 
witnessed, I have seen nothing beyond an enormously 
elaborated common sense. I dare not call it sound, 
because it is based on and developed out of animism, 
and of that and our white elaborated view I am not the 
judge, remembering you go the one way, I the other — 
which is the best, God knows. 



Concerning the accounts given by classic writers of West Africa, 
and of the method of barter called the Silent Trade. 

It is a generally received opinion that there are too 
many books in the world already. I cannot, however, 
subscribe to any Institution that proposes to alter this 
state of affairs, because I find no consensus of opinion 
as to which are the superfluous books ; I have my own 
opinion on the point, but I feel I had better keep it to 
myself, for I find the very books I dislike — almost 
invariably in one-volume form, as this one is, though 
of a more connected nature than this is likely to be — 
are the well-beloved of thousands of my fellow human 
beings ; and so I will restrict my enthusiasms in the 
matter of books to the cause of attempting to incite 
writers to give us more. If any one wants personally to 
oblige me he will forthwith write a masterly history 
of the inter- relationships — religious, commercial, and 
cultural— of the other races of the earth with the 
African, and he can put in as an appendix a sketch of 
the war conquest of Africa by the white races. I do not 
ask for a separate volume on this, because there will be 
so many on the others ; moreover, it is such a kaleido- 
scopic affair, and its influence alike on both European, 
Asiatic, and African seems to me neither great nor 


For the past fifteen years I have been reading up 
Africa ; and the effect of the study of this literature 
may best be summarised in Mr. Kipling's observation, 
" For to admire an' for to see, For to be'old this world 
so wide, It's never been no good to me, But I can't 
drop it if I tried." Wherein it has failed to be of 
good, I hastily remark, is that after all this fifteen 
years' reading, I found I had to go down into the 
most unfashionable part of Africa myself, to try to 
find out whatever the thing was really like, and also 
to discover which of my authors had been doing the 
heaviest amount of lying. It seemed clear to the 
meanest intelligence that this form of the darkening of 
counsel was fearfully prevalent among them, because of 
the way they disagreed about things among themselves. 
Of course I have so far only partially succeeded in both 
these matters ; for, regarding the first, personal experi- 
ence taught me that things differed with district ; 
regarding the second, that all the people who have 
been to Africa and have written books on it have, off 
and on, told the truth, and that what seemed to the 
public who have not been there to be the most erroneous 
statements have been true in substance and in fact, and 
/ that those statements they have accepted immediately 
as true on account of their either flattering their vanity 
or comfortably explaining the reasons of the failure of 
their endeavours, have the most falsehood in them. 

There is another point I must mention regarding this 
material for that much wanted colossal work on the his- 
tory of African relationships with the rest of the world 
— which I do not intend to write, but want written for 
me — and that is the superiority both in quality and 
quantity of the portion which relates to the Early 
History of the West Coast. Yet very little attention 
has been given in our own times to this. I might say 
no attention, were it not for Sir A. B. Ellis, that very 
noble man and gallant soldier, who did so much good 
work for England both with sword and pen. Just for 
the sake of the work being worth doing, not in the 
hope of reward ; for twenty years' service and the publi- 


cation of a series of books of great interest and import- 
ance taught him that West Africa was under a ban 
that it was beyond his power to remove ; nevertheless 
he went on with his work unfaltering, if not uncomplain- 
ing, and died, in 1895, a young man, practically killed 
by the Warim incident — the true history of which has 
yet to be written. For the credit of my country, I must 
say that just before death he was knighted. 

I do not quote Colonel Ellis's works extensively, be- 
cause, for one thing, it is the duty of people to read 
them firsthand, and as they are perfectly accessible 
there is no excuse for their not doing so ; and, for 
another thing, I am in touch with the majority of the 
works from which he gathered his information regard- 
ing the early history, and with the natives from whom 
he gathered his ethnological information. There are 
certain points, I grant, on which I am unable to agree 
with him, such as the opinion he formed from his 
personal prejudices against the traders in West Africa ; 
but in the main, regarding the regions with which he 
was personally acquainted and on which he wrote — the 
Bight of Benin regions — I am only too glad that there 
is Colonel Ellis for me to agree with. 

The fascination of West Africa's historical record is 
very great, bristling as it does with the deeds of brave 
men, bad and good, black and white. What my German 
friends would call the Bliith-period of this history is 
decidedly that period which was inaugurated by the 
great Prince Henry the Navigator ; and no man who 
has ever read, as every man should read, Mr. Major's 
book on Prince Henry, can fail to want to know more 
still, and what happened down in those re-discovered 
Bights of Benin and Biafra after this Bliith-period closed. 
This can be done, mainly thanks to a Dutchman named 
Bosman, who was agent for the great Dutch house of 
the Gold Coast for many years circa 1698, and who 
wrote home to his uncle a series of letters of a most 
exemplary nature reeking with information on native 
matters and local politics, and suffused with a tender 
fear of shocking his aunt which did not, however, seem 


in his opinion to justify him in suppressing important 
ethnological facts. 

Regarding the ethnological information we have of 
the Gold Coast natives, the most important works are 
those by the late Sir A. B. Ellis. His books are almost 
models of what books should be that are written by 
people studying native customs in their native land. 
We have also the results of scientific observers in the 
works of Buckhardt and Bastian, besides a mass of 
scattered information in the works of travellers, Bosman, 
Barbot, Labat, Mathews, Bowditch, Cruickshank, Win- 
wood Reade, H. M. Stanley, Burton, Captain Canot, 
Captain Binger, and others, and quite recently a valuable 
contribution to our knowledge in Mr. Sarbar's Fanti 
Customary Laws} I think that every student of the 
African form of thought should master these works 
thoroughly, and I fully grant their great importance ; 
but nevertheless, I am quite unable to agree with Mr. 
Jevons {Introduction to the History of Religion, p. 164) 
when he says, regarding Fetishism, that " it is certainly 
amongst the inhabitants of the Gold and Slave Coasts 
that the subject can best be studied." These two Coasts 
are, I grant, the best place for a student who is resident 
in Europe, and therefore dependent on the accounts 
given by others of the things he is dealing with, to draw 
his information from, because of the accuracy and extent 
of the information he can get from Ellis's work ; but, 
apart from Ellis the value of these regions to an eth- 
nologist is but small, and for an ethnologist who will 
go out to West Africa and study his material for him- 
self, the whole of the Coast regions of the Benin Bight 
are but of tenth-rate importance, because of the great 
and long-continued infusion of both Mohammedan and 
European forms of thought into the original native 
thought-form that has taken place in these regions. 
This subject I will refer to later, and I will return now 
to the history, confining myself to the earlier portions of 
it, and to that which bears on the early development of 

1 Clowes and Sons, 1897. 


I sincerely wish I could go into full details regarding 
the whole history of the locality here, because I know my 
only chance of being allowed to do so is on paper, and it 
would be a great relief to my mind ; but I forbear, 
experience having taught me that the subject, to put it 
mildly, is not of general interest. For example, person 
after person have I tried to illuminate and educate in the 
matter of our relationships with the Ashantees ; always, 
alas, in vain. Before I have got half through they "hear 
a voice I cannot hear that's calling them away;" or 
remember something w that must be done at once ; " or,j 
worst of all, go off straightway to sleep after once or 
twice feebly inquiring, " Where is that place ? " Of 
course I am glad that my little knowledge has been 
the comfort it has to several people. Once, when I was 
homeward-bound along the Gold Coast, three gentlemen 
came on board very ill from fever, and homeward-bound, 
too. Their worst symptom was agonising insomnia. 
" Not a wink," they assured my friend the Irish purser, 
had they had " for a couple of months." " We'll soon 
put that right for you on board this boat," he said, in 
his characteristically kind and helpful manner. To 
my great surprise, that same afternoon he deliberately 
tackled me on the subject of the real reason that induced 
Osai Kwofi Kari Karito cross the Prah in January, 1873. 
I was charmed at this unwonted display of interest in 
the subject, and hoped also to gain further information 
on it from those recently shipped Gold Coasters in the 
smoking-room. I was getting on fairly well with it; 
and my friend the purser, instead of having " some 
manifests to write out," as was usual with him, nobly 
battled with the intricacies of the subject for a good 
half hour and more ; and then, just when I was in 
the middle of some topographical elucidation, accom- 
panied by questions, up that purser rose, yawned and 
stretched himself, and hailed the doctor, who happened 
to be passing by. " What do you think of that, doctor? " 
he said, pointing to the settee. " Do them a power of 
good," says his compatriot the medico. Turning round, 
I saw the three victims of insomnia grouped together ; 


the middle man had his head pillowed on the oilclothed 
top of the table, and reclining, more or less gracefully, 
against him on either side were his two companions, 
their half-smoked pipes fallen from their limp fingers — 
all profoundly, unquestionably asleep. w Oh, yes ! of 
course, I was delighted," but not flattered ; and, warned 
by this incident, I will here only say that should any- 
one be really interested in the eventful history of the 
long struggle between the English, Portuguese, French, 
Dutch, and Brandenburgers, with each other and with 
the natives, for the possession of the country where 
the black man's gold came from, they will find a good 
deal about it in the works already cited ; and should 
any medical man — the remedy is perhaps a little too 
powerful to be trusted in the hands of the laity — 
require it for the treatment of insomnia as above indi- 
cated, I recommend that part of it which bears on the 
Ashantee question in small but regular doses. 

Our earliest authorities mentioning Africa with the 
knowledge in them that it is surrounded by the ocean, 
save at Suez, are Theopompus and Herodotus. Un- 
fortunately all Theopompus's works are lost to us, 
voluminous though they were, his history alone being a 
matter of fifty-eight volumes, while before he took up 
history he had won for himself a great reputation as an 
orator, during the reigns of Philip and Alexander the 
Great. He is perpetually referred to, however, though 
not always praised, by other great classical writers, 
Cicero, Pliny, the two Dionysiuses and others, and 
was evidently regarded as a great authority ; one 
particular fragment of his works that refers to Africa 
is preserved by vElian, and consists of a conversation 
between Silenus and Midas, King of Phrygia. Silenus 
says that Europe, Asia, and Africa are surrounded by 
the sea, but that beyond the known world there is an 
island of immense extent containing large animals and 
men of twice our stature. This island Mr. Major 
thinks and doubtless rightly, is connected with the 
tradition of our old friend — you know what I mean, as 
Captain Marryat's boatswain says — the Atlantis of Plato. 


This affair I will no further mention or hint at, but 
hastily pass on to that other early authority, Herodotus, 
who was born 484 years before Christ, and whose works, 
thanks be, have survived. He says : " The Phoenician 
navigators under command of Pharaoh-Necho, King of 
Egypt, setting sail from the Red Sea, made their way 
to the Southern Sea ; when autumn approached they 
drew their vessels to land, sowed a crop, waited until it 
was ripe for harvest, reaped it, and put again to sea." 
Having spent two years in this manner, in the third 
year they reached the Pillars of Hercules (Jebu Zatout, 
and Gibraltar), and returned to Egypt, " reporting," 
says Herodotus, "what does not find belief in me, 
but may perhaps in some other persons, for they 
said in sailing round Africa they had the sun to the 
right (to the North) of them. In this way was Libya 
first known." 1 

Much has been written regarding the accuracy of 
these Phoenician accounts ; for, as frequently happens, 
their mention of a thing that seemed at first to brand 
their account as a lie remains to brand it as the truth — 
and although I have no doubt those Phoenician gentle- 
men heartily wished they had said nothing about having 
seen the sun to the North, yet it was best for them in 
the end, as it demonstrates to us that they had, at any 
rate, been South of the Equator ; and we owe to Hero- 
dotus here, as in many other places in his works, a debt 
of gratitude for honestly putting down what he did not 
believe himself; he also has suffered from this habit of 
accuracy, becoming himself regarded by the superficial 
people of this world as a credulous old romancer, which 
he never was. Good man, he only liked fair play. 
I Here," he says as it were, " is a thing I am told. It's a 
bit too large for my belief hatch, but if you can get it down 
yours, you're free and welcome to ship it." Herodotus, 
however accepts the fact that Africa was surrounded 
by water, save at its connection with the great land 
mass of the earth (Europe and Asia) by the isthmus of 

1 Melpomene, IV. 41. 



Several other attempts to circumnavigate Africa were 
made prior to Herodotus's writings. One that we have 
mention of 1 was made by a Persian nobleman named 
Sataspes, whom Xerxes had, for a then capital offence, 
condemned to impalement. This man's mother per- 
suaded Xerxes that if she were allowed to deal with her 
son she would impose on him a more terrible punish- 
ment even than this, namely, that he should be con- 
demned to sail round Libya. There is no doubt this 
good lady thought thereby to save her son ; but, as 
events turned out, Xerxes, by accepting her suggestion, 
did not cheat justice by granting this as an alternative 
to immediate execution. However, off Sataspes sailed 
with a ship and crew from Egypt, out through the 
Pillars of Hercules, and doubling the Cape of Libya, 
then named Solois, he steered south, and, says Hero- 
dotus, " traversed a vast extent of sea for many months, 
and finding he had still more to pass he turned round 
and returned to Egypt and then back to Xerxes, who 
had him then impaled, because, for one thing he had not 
sailed round Libya, and for another, Xerxes held he lied 
about those regions of it that he had visited ; for 
Sataspes said he had seen a nation of little men who 
wore garments made of palm leaves, who, whenever his 
crew drew their ships ashore, left their cities and flew 
into the mountains, though he did them no injury, only 
taking some cattle from them ; and the reason he gave 
for his not sailing round Lybia was "that his ships could 
go no further." Sataspes's end was sad, but one cannot 
feel that he was a loss to the class of romancers of 

Another and a more determined navigator was 
Eudoxus of Cyzicus (B.C. 117). The scanty record we 
have of his exploration is of great interest. While he 
was making his stay in Alexandria, he met an Indian 
who was the sole survivor of a crew wrecked on the Red 
Sea Coast. He is the Indian who persuaded Ptolemy 
Euergetes to fit out an expedition to sail to India, and 
off they went and succeeded in it greatly, but on their 
1 Melpomene, IV. 43. 


return the king seized the cargo ; so therefore, as a 
private enterprise, the thing was a failure. However, 
Eudoxus was a man of great determination, and on the 
death of Ptolemy VII. in the reign of his successor, he 
set out on another expedition to India. On his return 
voyage he was driven down the African Coast and 
found there on the shore amongst other wreckage the 
prow of a vessel with the figure of a horse carved on it. 
This relic he took with him as a curiosity, and on his 
successful return to Alexandria exhibited it there in the 
market place, and during its exhibition it was re- 
cognised by some pirates from Cadiz (Gades) who 
happened to be in that city, and they testified that the 
small vessels which were employed in the fisheries along 
the West African Coast as far as the River Lixius 
(Wadi al Knos) always had the figure of a horse 
on their prows, and on this account were called 
" horses." The fact of this wreck of a vessel belonging 
to Western Europe being found on the East Coast of 
Africa, joined with the knowledge that these vessels did 
not pass through the Mediterranean Sea, gave Eudoxus 
the idea that the vessel he had the figure head of must 
have come round Africa from the West Coast, and he 
then proceeded to Cadiz and equipped three vessels, one 
large and two of smaller size, and started out to do the 
same thing, bar wrecking. He sailed down the known 
West Coast without trouble, but when he came to passing 
on into the unknown seas, he had trouble with the crews, 
and was compelled to beach his vessels. After doing 
this he succeeded in persuading his crews to proceed, 
but it was then found impossible to float the largest 
vessel, so she was abandoned, and the expedition 
proceeded in the smaller and in a ship constructed 
from the wreck of the larger on which the cargo 
was shipped with the expedition. Eudoxus reached 
apparently Senegambia, and then another mutiny 
broke out, and he had to return to Barbary. But 
undaunted he then fitted out another expedition, con- 
sisting of two smaller vessels, and once again sailed to 
the South to circumnavigate Africa. Nothing since 

o 2 


has been heard of Eudoxus of Cyzicus surnamed the 
Brave. 1 

On his second voyage he fell in with natives who, 
he says, spoke the same language that he had previously 
heard on the Eastern Coast of Africa. If he was right 
in this, some authors hold he must have gone down the 
West Coast, at least as far as Cameroons, because there 
you nowadays first strike the language, which does stretch 
across the continent, namely, the Bantu, and we have no 
reason to suppose that the Bantu border line was ever 
further North on this Coast than it is at present ; in- 
deed, the indications are, I think, the other way ; but as 
far as the language goes, it seems to me that Eudoxus 
could have heard the same language as on the East 
African Coast far higher up than Cameroons, namely, 
on the Moroccoan Coast, for in those days, prior to the 
great Arab invasion, most likely the language of the 
Berber races had possession of Northern Africa from 
East Coast to West. However, there is another state- 
ment of his which I think points to Eudoxus having 
gone far South, namely, that the reason of his turning 
back was an inability to get provisions, for this cata- 
strophe is not likely to have overtaken so brave a man 
as he was until he reached the great mangrove swamps 
of the Niger. The litoral of the Sahara was in those 
days, we may presume, from the accounts we have far 
later from Leo Africanus and Arab writers, more luxu- 
riant and heavily populated than it is at present. 

Of these voyages, however, we have such scant record 
that we need not dwell on them further, and so we will 
return to about 300 B.C., and consider the wonderful 
voyage made by Han no of Carthage, of which we have 
more detailed knowledge ; although there still remains a 
certain amount of doubt as to who exactly Hanno was, 
mainly on account of Hanno apparently having been 
to Carthage what Jones is to North Wales — the name 

1 See Ellis's History of the Gold Coast, also Tozer's History of 
Ancient Geography, Beazley's Dawn of Modern Geography, and 
Strabo, B.C. 25, book xvii, edited by Theodore Jansonius ab Alme- 
looven, Amsterdam, 1707. 


of a number of individuals with a habit of doing every- 
thing and frequently distinguishing themselves greatly. 
The Carthaginians were to the classic world much what 
the English are to the modern, a great colonising, 
commercial people — warlike when wanted. They planted 
colonies in North Africa and elsewhere, and had com- 
mercial relationship with all the then known nations 
of the world, including a trans-Sahara trade with the 
people living to the South of the Great Desert. We 
shall never know to the full where those Carthaginians 
went, from the paucity of record ; but we have record 
of the voyage of this Hanno in a Periplus originally 
written in the Punic language and then translated into 
Greek. 1 Hanno, it seems, was a chief magistrate at Car- 
thage, and Pliny says his voyage was undertaken when 
Carthage was in a most flourishing condition. 2 From 
the Periplus we learn that the expedition to the West 
Coast consisted of sixty ships of fifty oars each, and 
30,000 persons of both sexes, ample provisions and 
everything necessary for so great an undertaking. The 
object of this expedition was to explore, to found colon- 
ies, and to increase commerce. The expedition, after 
passing the Pillars of Hercules, sailed two days along 
the coast and founded their first colony, which they 
called Thymatirum. Just south of this place, on a 

1 There is doubt as to whether this Periplus is the entire one 
with which the classic writers were conversant. 

2 " Et Hanno Carthaginis potentia florente circumvectus a 
Gadibus ad finem Arabiae navigationem earn prodidit scripto " ; 
(and Hanno, when Carthage flourished, sailed round from Cadiz to 
the remotest parts of Arabia, and left an account of his voyage in 
writing) Plinius, lib. ii. cap. lxvii. p.m. 220. See also lib. v. cap. i. 
p.m. 523, and Pomponius Mela, lib. iii. cap. ix. 63, edit. Isaici Vossii. 

There is an English version of the Periplus, edited by Falconer, 
London, 1797 ; and an Oxford edition of it, and some other works, 
by Dr. Hudson, 1698. Also there is a work on Hanno's Periplus 
based on MS. in the Meyer Museum at Liverpool by Simonides, 
not the Iambic poet, who wrote a ridiculous satire against women, 
quoted by ;£lian ; nor yet Simonides, who was one of the greatest 
of the ancient poets, and flourished in the seventy-fifth Olympiad ; 
but a modern gentleman connected with America, whose work I 
am sufficient scholar neither to use nor to criticise. 


promontory called Solocis, they built a temple to Nep- 
tune. A short distance further on they found a beauti- 
ful lake, the edges of which were bordered with large 
reeds, the country abounding in elephants and other 
game ; a day's sail from this place, they founded five 
small cities near the sea, called respectively Cariconticos, 
Gytte, Acra, Millitea, and Arambys. The next most 
important part of their voyage was their discovery of 
the great River Lixius, on the banks of which they 
found a pastoral people they called the Lixitae. These 
seem to have been a mild people ; but there were in the 
neighbourhood tribes of a ferocious character, and they 
were also told there were Trogloditae dwelling in the 
mountains, where the Lixius took its rise, who were 
fleeter than horses. Unfortunately we are not told how 
long the Carthaginians took in reaching this River 
Lixius ; but if the Carthaginians had been keeping close 
in shore they would not have met with a river that 
looked great until they reached the mouth of the Ouro 
(23 36" N. lat), which is four miles wide, but only an 
estuary ; but as the Carthaginians do not seem to have 
gone up it, they may not have noticed its imperfections, 
and so, pursuing that dangerous method of judging a 
West African river from its mouth, regarded it as a great 
river. However this may have been, they took with 
them as guides and interpreters some of the Lixitae, 
and continued their voyage for three days, when they 
came to a large bay, an island in it containing a circle 
of five stadia, and proceeded to found another colony 
on that island, calling it Cerne, where they judged they 
were as far from the Pillars of Hercules as these were 
from Carthage. So it is held now that Cerne is the 
same as the French trading station Arguin (about 240 
miles north of Senegal River), on to whose shoals the 
wreck of the French frigate La Mednse drifted in 1 8 16, 
the tragedy of which is familiar to us all from Gericault's 
great painting. 

Hanno next called at a place where there was a 
great lake, which they entered by sailing up a river 
called by them Cheretes. In this they found three 


islands, all larger than the island of Cerne. One day's 
sail then brought them to the extremity of the lake 
overhung by mountains, which were inhabited by 
savages clad in wild beasts' skins, who prevented their 
landing by pelting them with stones. The next point 
in their voyage was a large and broad river, infested with 
crocodiles and river horses ; and from this place they 
made their way back to Cerne, where they rested and 
repaired and then set forth again, sailing south along 
the African shores for twelve successive days. The 
language of the natives of these regions the Lixitae did 
not understand, and the Carthaginians could not hold 
any communication with them for another reason, that 
they always fled from them ; towards the last day they 
approached some large mountains covered with trees. 
They went on two days further, when they came to a 
large opening in the sea, on land on either side of which 
was a plain whereon they saw fires in every direction. 
At this place 1 they refilled their water barrels, and 
continued their voyage five days further, when they 
reached a large bay which their interpreters said was 
called the Western Horn. In this bay they found a 
large island, in the centre of which was a salt lake with 
a small island in it. When they went ashore in the day 
time they saw no inhabitants, but at night time they 
heard in every direction a confused noise of pipes, 
cymbals, drums and song, which alarmed the crew, while 
the diviners they had with them, equivalent to our naval 
chaplains, strongly advised Hanno to leave that place as 
speedily as possible. Hanno, however, being less 
alarmed than his companions, pushed on South, and 
they soon found themselves abreast of a country blazing 
with fires, streams of which seemed to be pouring from 
the mountain tops down into the sea. "We sailed quickly 
thence," says Hanno, " being much terrified." Proceeding 
four days further they found that things did not improve 

1 Major identifies this place with Cape Verde, pointing out that 
the inability of the Lixitae interpreters to understand the language 
accords with the fact that at the Senegal commences the country 
of the blacks ; " the immense opening " he regards as the Gambia. 


in appearance from their point of view, for the whole 
country seemed ablaze at night, a country full of fire, 
and at one point the fire seemed to fly up to the very 
stars. Hanno says their interpreters told them that 
this great fire was the Chariot of the Gods. Three 
days more sailing South brought them to another bay, 
called the Southern Horn. In this bay they found a 
large island, in which again there was a lake with another 
island in it, having inhabitants who were savage, and 
whose bodies were covered with hair. These people 
the interpreters called the Gorillae — some were captured 
and taken aboard, but so savage and unmanageable did 
they prove that they were killed and the skins preserved. 
As most of the inhabitants of the Islands of the Gorillae 
seemed to be females, and as these ladies had made 
such a gallant fight of it with their Carthaginian captors, 
Hanno kept their skins to hang up in the temple of 
Juno on his return home, evidently intending to be 
complimentary both to the Goddess and the Gorillae ; 
but it is to be feared neither of them took it as it was 
meant, for Hanno had no luck from the Gods after this, 
having to turn back from shortness of provisions, and 
finally ending his career by, some say, being killed, and 
others say exiled from Carthage on account of his 
having a lion so tame that it would carry baggage for 
him ; Punic public opinion held that this demonstrated 
him to be a man dangerous to the State. The Gorillae 
seem to have worked out their vengeance on white men 
by making it more than any man's character for truth is 
worth to see one of them — except stuffed in a museum, 
with a label on. 

How far Hanno really went down South is not known 
with any certainty. M. Gosselin held he only reached 
the river Nun, on the Moroccoan coast. Major Rennell 
fixed his furthest point somewhere north of the Sierra 
Leone, and held the Island of the Gorillae to be identical 
with the Island of Sherboro'. Bougainville believed 
that he at any rate went well into the Bight of Benin, 
while others think he went at any rate as far as Gaboon. 
I cannot myself see why he should not have done so, 


considering the winds and tides of the locality and the 
time taken ; indeed I should be quite willing to believe 
he went down to Congo, and that in the most terrific of 
fires he witnessed an eruption of the volcanic peak of 
Cameroon, a volcano not yet extinct. Indeed the name 
given to this high fire " that almost reached the stars " 
by his interpreters — the Chariot of the Gods — is not so 
very unlike the name the Cameroon Peak bears to this 
day, Mungo Mah Lobeh, the Throne or Place of 
Thunder, and this native name is also capable of being 
translated into " the Place of the Gods " or spirits. The 
thing I do not believe in the affair is that the Lixitae 
interpreters ever called it or any other place " a 
chariot " ; for as Hanno was the first white man they 
had seen, and they had no chariots of their own, it is 
unlikely they could have known anything of chariots ; 
and I think this Chariot of the Gods must have been an 
error of Hanno's in translating his interpreter's remarks. 
It is perfectly excusable in him if it is so, because to 
understand what an interpreter means who does not 
know your language, and whose own language you are 
not an adept in, and who is translating from a language 
regarding which you are both alike ignorant, is a pro- 
cess fraught with difficulty. I have tried it, so speak 
feelingly. It is true it is not an impossibility, as those 
unversed in African may hastily conjecture, because at 
least one-third of an African language consists in gesture, 
and this gesture part is fairly common to all tribes I 
have met, so that by means of it you can get on with 
daily life ; but it breaks down badly when you come to 
the names of places. I myself once went on a long 
march to a place that subsequent knowledge informed 
me was " I don't know " in my director's native tongue. 
Still, if he did not know, I did not know, and so it was 
all the same. I got there all right, therefore it did not 
matter to me ; but I was haunted during my stay in 
it by a confused feeling that perhaps I was flying in 
the face of Science by being somewhere else — being in 
two places at the same time. 

I really, however, cannot help thinking Hanno must 


have got past the Niger Delta ; for there is nothing 
to frighten any one, as far as the look of things go, 
until you go south from Calabar, and find yourself 
facing that magnificent Great Cameroon and Fernando 
Po; and Hanno's people were scared as they were never 
scared before. Yet, again, there are those fires, which 
were in the main doubtless what that very wise and 
not half-appreciated missionary, the late Rev. J. Leigh- 
ton Wilson, says they were, namely, fires made by the 
native burning down the high grass at the end of a dry 
season to make his farms. Now Hanno could have 
seen any quantity of these along parts of the shores of 
the Bight of Benin, but is not likely to have seen them 
to any alarming extent on the Biafran Bight, because 
the shores thereof are deeply fringed with mangrove 
swamps, and the native does not start making farms 
in them. Hanno might have seen what looked like 
the smoke of innumerable fires on the sides of Cameroon 
Mountain and Fernando Po. I myself have seen the 
whole mighty forest there smoking as if beneath it 
smouldered the infernal regions themselves ; but it is 
only columns and wafts of mist, and so gives no blaze 
at night ; if you want to see a real land of flame with, 
over it, a pall of cloud reflecting back its crimson light 
•in a really terrifying way, you must go south of 
Cameroon, south of Congo Frangais, south, until you 
reach the region of the Great Congo itself ; and there — 
on the grass-covered hills and plains of the Lower 
Congo lands — you will see a land of fire at the end of 
the dry season, terrific enough to awe any man. Of 
course, if Hanno passed the Congo and went down as far 
as the fringing sands of the Kalahari desert, he would 
certainly not have been able to get stores ; but also doWn 
there he would not have met with an island on which 
there were gorillas ; for even if we grant that there was 
sufficient dense forest south of the Congo in his days for 
gorillas to have inhabited, and allow that in old days 
gorillas were south of the Congo, which they are not 
now, still there is no island near the coast. So I am 
afraid we cannot quite settle Hanno's furthest point, and 


must content ourselves by saying he was a brave man, 
a good sailor, and a credit therefore to his country and 
the human race. 

After Hanno's time I cannot find any record of a 
regular set of trading expeditions down the West Coast 
by the Carthaginians. From scattered observations it is 
certain the commerce of the Carthaginians with the 
Barbary Coast and the Bight of Benin was long carried 
on ; but it does not seem to have been carried on along 
the Coast of the Bight of Biafra ; and the voyage in 
170 B.C. may be cited in support of this, showing that the 
voyage as far south as Eudoxus went was then considered 
as marvellous and new. Still, on the other hand, it must 
be remembered that, prior to our own day, the navi- 
gator had no great inducement to tell the rest of the 
world exactly where he had been ; indeed, the navigator 
whose main interest is commerce is, to this day, not 
keen on so doing. He would rather keep little geo- 
graphical facts — such as short cuts by creeks, and places 
where either gold, or quicksilver, and buried ivory, is 
plentiful — to himself, than go explaining about these 
things for the sake of getting an unrepaying honour. 
One sees this so much in studying the next period of 
this history — the early Portuguese and early French 
discoveries ; you will find that one of these nations knew 
about a place years before the other came along, and 
discovered it, and claimed it as its own — with disputes 
as a natural consequence. 

There has, however, been one very interesting point 
in the dealing of the nations of higher culture with the 
Africans, and that is the way their commerce with 
them has had periods of abeyance. The Egyptians 
have left us record of having been extensively in touch 
with the interior of Africa, via the Nile Valley — then 
came a pause. Then came the Carthaginian commerce 
— then a pause. Then the Portuguese, French, English, 
Dutch, and Dane trading enterprise, say, roughly from 
1340 to 1700 — then a falling off of this enterprise; 
revived during the Slave-trade days, falling off again on 
its suppression, and reviving in our own days. I suppose 


I ought to say greatly, but — well, we will discuss that 
later. These pauses have always been caused by the 
nations of higher culture getting too busy with wars at 
home to trouble themselves about the African, all the 
more so because the produce of Africa has filtered 
slowly, whether it was fetched by white man or no, into 
their markets through the hands of the energetic North 
African tribes and the Arabs. Whenever the white 
man has settled down with his home affairs, and has had 
time to spare, he has always gone and looked up the 
African again, " discovered him," and he has always 
found him in the same state of culture that the pioneers 
of the previous Bliith-period found him in. Hanno does 
not find down the West Coast another Carthage — he 
finds bush fires, and hears the tom-tom and the horn 
and the shouts. He finds people slightly clad and 
savage. Then read Aluise da Ca da Mostro and the 
rest of Prince Henry's adventures ; well, you might — 
save that the old traveller is more interesting — almost 
be reading a book published yesterday. The only 
radical change made for large quantities of Africans by 
means of white intercourse was made by exporting 
them to America. How this is going to turn out we do 
not yet know ; and whether or no, after the present 
period of white exploitation of Africa, there may not 
come another pause from our becoming too interested in 
some big fight of our own to keep up our interest in 
the African, we cannot tell ; so I will pass on to a very 
interesting point in a method of trade mentioned by the 
early authorities — the silent trade. 

Herodotus gives us the first description of it, 1 saying 
that the Carthaginians state that beyond the Pillars of 
Hercules there is a region of Libya, and men who 
inhabit it. When they arrive among these people and 
have unloaded their merchandise they set it in order on 
the shore, go on board their ships and make a great 
smoke, and the inhabitants seeing the smoke come 
down to the sea shore, deposit gold in exchange for the 
merchandise and withdraw to some distance. The 
1 Melpomene, IV. 96. 


Carthaginians then going ashore examine the goods, and 
if the quantity seems sufficient for the merchandise they 
take it and sail away ; but if it is not sufficient they go 
on board again and wait ; the natives then approach and 
deposit more gold until they have satisfied them : 
neither party ever wrongs the other, for they do not 
touch the gold before it is made adequate to the value 
of the merchandise, nor do the natives touch the mer- 
chandise before the Carthaginians have taken the gold. 

The next description of this silent trade I have been 
able to find is that given by Aluise da Ca da Mostro, 
a Venetian gentleman who, allured by the accounts of 
the riches of West Africa given by Prince Henry the 
Navigator, abandoned trading with the Low Countries, 
entered the Prince's service, and went down the Coast in 
1455. When in the district of Cape Blanco, at a place 
called by him Hoden, he was told that six days' journey 
from this place there was a place called Tagazza, signi- 
fying a chest of gold ; there large quantities of rock salt 
were dug from the earth every year and carried on 
camels by the Arabs and the Azanaghi, who were tawny 
Moors, 1 in separate companies to Timbuk, and from 
thence to the Empire of Melli, which belonged to the 
negroes ; having arrived there they disposed of their salt 
in the course of eight days, at the rate of two and three 
hundred mitigals the load (a mitigal = a ducat), accord- 
ing to the quantity thereof, after which they returned 
home with the gold they had been paid in. These mer- 
chants reckoned it forty days' journey on horseback from 
Tagazza to " Timbuk " as Mostro, while from Timbuk to 
Melli it is thirty days' journey. Ca da Mostro then 
inquired to what use the salt taken to Melli was put ; 
and they said that the merchants used a certain quantity 
of it themselves, for on account of their country lying 
near the Line, where the days and nights are of equal 
length, at certain seasons of the year the heats are 

1 The writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries commonly 
divide up the natives of Africa into — 1, Moors ; 2, Tawny Moors ; 
3, Black Moors, a term that lingers to this day in our word Blackey- 
moor ; 4, Negroes. 


excessive, and putrefied the blood unless salt was taken; 
their method of taking it was to dissolve a piece in a por- 
ringer of water daily and drink it. When the remainder 
of the salt reached Melli, carried thither on camels, each 
camel load was broken up into pieces of a suitable size for 
one man to carry. A large number of what Ca da 
Mostro calls footmen — whom we nowadays call porters 
— were assembled at Melli to be ready to carry the salt 
from thence further away still into the heart of Africa. 

I have dwelt on this salt's wanderings because we 
have here a very definite description of a trade route, 
and the importance of understanding these trade routes 
is very great. We do not learn, however, exactly 
where the salt goes to beyond Melli ; but Melli seems 
to have been, as Timbuctoo was, and to a certain 
extent still is, a trade focus ; and from Melli evidently 
the salt went in many directions, and it is interesting 
to note Ca da Mostro's observations on the salt porters, 
who he says carry in each hand a long forked stick, 
which when they are tired they fix into the ground and 
rest their loads on ; so to-day may you see the West 
African porters doing, save that it is only the porters 
who have to pass over woodless plateaux on their 
journeys that carry two sticks. 

Speaking however further on the course of this salt 
trade Ca da Mostro says that some of the merchants 
of Melli go with it until they come to a certain water, 
whether fresh or salt his informant could not say ; 
but he holds it most likely was fresh, or there would 
be no need of carrying salt there ; and it is the opinion 
of the few people who have of late years interested 
themselves in the matter that this great water is the 
Niger Joliba. But be this as it may, when those mer- 
chants from Melli arrive on the banks of this great 
water they place their shares of salt in heaps in a row, 
every one setting a mark on his own. This done, the 
merchants retire half a day's journey ; then " the 
negroes, who will not be seen or spoken with, and who 
seem to be the inhabitants of some islands, come in large 
boats," and having viewed the salt lay a sum of gold on 

[ To face page 206. 

Oil River Natives. 


every heap and then retire. When they are all gone the 
negro merchants who own the salt return, and if the 
quantity of gold pleases them they take it and leave the 
salt ; if not, they leave both and withdraw themselves 
again. The silent people then return, and the heaps 
from which they find the gold has been removed they 
carry away, and either advance more gold to the other 
heaps or take their gold from them and leave the salt. 
In this manner, says Ca da Mostro, from very ancient 
times these negroes have traded without either speak- 
ing to or seeing each other, until a few years before, 
when he was at Cape Blanco among the Azanaghi, 
who supply the negroes of Melli with their salt as 
aforesaid, and who evidently get from them gossip as 
well as gold. They told him that their fellow mer- 
chants among the black Moors had told them that they 
had had serious trouble in consequence of the then 
Emperor of Melli, a man who took more general in- 
terest in affairs than was common in Emperors of 
Melli, having been fired with a desire to know why 
these customers of his traders did not like being seen ; 
he had commanded the salt merchants when they next 
went to traffic with the silent people to capture some 
of them for him by digging pits near the salt heaps, 
concealing themselves therein and then rushing out and 
seizing some of the strange people when they came to 
look at the salt heaps. The merchants did not at all 
relish the royal commission, for they knew, as any born 
trader would, that it must be extremely bad for trade 
to rush out and seize customers by the scruff of their 
necks while they were in the midst of their shopping. 
However, much as the command added to their com- 
mercial anxieties, the thing had to be done, or there 
was no doubt the Emperor would relieve them both of 
all commercial anxieties and their heads at one and the 
same time. So they carried out the royal command, 
and captured four of their silent customers. Three they 
immediately liberated, thinking that to keep so many 
would only increase the bad blood, and one specimen 
would be sufficient to satisfy the Imperial curiosity. 


Unfortunately however the unfortunate captive they 
retained would neither speak nor eat, and in a few days 
died ; and so the salt merchants of Melli returned home 
in very low spirits, feeling assured that their Emperor 
would be actively displeased with them for failing to 
satisfy his curiosity, and that the silent customers would 
be too alarmed and angered with them for their un- 
provoked attack to deal with them again. Subsequent 
events proved them to be correct in both surmises : his 
Majesty was highly disgusted at not having been able 
to see one of these people ; and naturally, for the de- 
scription given to him of those they had captured was 
at least highly interesting. The merchants said they 
were a span taller than themselves and well shaped, 
but that they made a terrible figure because their 
under lip was thicker than a man's fist and hung down 
on their breasts ; also that it was very red, and some- 
thing like blood dropped from it and from their gums. 
The upper lip was no larger than that of other people, 
and owing to this there were exposed to view both 
gums and teeth, which were of great size, particularly 
the teeth in the corners of the mouth. Their eyes were 
of great size and blackness. As for the customers, 
for three years went the merchants of Melli to the 
banks of the great water and arranged their salt heaps 
and looked on them for gold dust in vain : but the 
fourth year it was there ; and the merchants of Melli 
believed that their customers' lips had begun to putrefy 
through the excessive heat and the want of salt, so that 
being unable to bear so grievous a distemper they were 
compelled to return to their trade. Things were then 
established on a fairly reasonable basis ; the merchants 
did not again attempt to see their customers, and they 
knew from their experience with their captive that they 
were by nature dumb ; for had there been speech in him, 
would he not have spoken under the treatment to which 
he was subjected ? And as for the Emperor of Melli he 
said right out he did not care whether those blacks 
could speak or no, so long as he had but the profit of 
their gold. 


This gold, I may remark, that was collected at Melli 
was divided into three parts : the first was sent by the 
Melli caravans to Kokhia on the caravan route to 
Syria and Cairo ; the other two parts went from Melli 
to Timbuctoo, where it was again divided up, some of 
it going to Toet, 1 and from thence along the coast to 
Tunis, in Barbary. Some of it went to Hoden, not far 
from Cape Blanco, and from there to Oran and Hona ; 
thence it went to Fez, Morocco, Azila-Azasi, and Moosa, 
towns outside the Straits of Gibraltar, whence it went 
into Europe, through the hands of Italians, and other 
Christians, who exchanged their merchandise for the 
wares of the Barbary Moors ; and the remainder of the 
gold went down to the West African Coast to the 
Portuguese at Arguin. This description of the gold 
route is by Ca da Mostro, and is the first description 
of the West African trade route I have found. 

But I must tear myself from the fascination of gold 
and its trade routes and return to that silent trade. 
The next person after Ca da Mostro to mention it is 
Captain Richard Jobson, who in 1620-162 1 made a 
voyage especially to discover " the golden trade," of 
what he calls Tombak, which is our last author's 
Timbuk, by way of the Gambia, then held by many 
to be a mouth of the Niger. 

Jobson's inquiries regarding this "golden trade" 
informed him that the great demand for salt in the 
Gambia trade arose from the desire for it among the 
Arabiks of Barbary ; that the natives themselves only 
consumed a small percentage of this import, trading 
away the main to those Arabiks in the hinterland, 
who in their turn traded it for gold to Tombak, where 
the demand for it was great, because that city, although 
possessing all manner of other riches and commodities, 
lacked salt, so that the Arabiks did a good trade therein. 
Jobson was also informed that the Arabiks had, as well 
as the market for salt at Timbuctoo, a market for it with 
a strange people who would not be seen, and who lived 
not far from Yaze ; that the salt was carried to them, 
1 Ato, according to the version given in Grynaeus. 



and in exchange they gave gold. Asking a native 
merchant, who was engaged in this trade, why they would 
not be seen, he made a sign to his lips, but would say 
no more. Jobson, however, learnt from other sources 
that the reason these negroes buy salt from the tawny 
Moors is because of the thickness of their lips, which 
hang down upon their breasts, and, being raw, would 
putrefy if they did not take salt, a thing their country 
does not afford, so that they must traffic for it with the 
Moors. The manner they employ, according to Jobson, 
is this : the Moors on a fixed day bring their goods to a 
place assigned, where there are certain houses appointed 
for them ; herein they deposit their commodities, and, 
laying their salt and other goods in parcels or heaps 
separately, depart for a whole day, during which time 
their customers come, and to each parcel of goods lay 
down a proportion of gold as they value it, and leave 
both together. The merchants then return, and as they 
like the bargain take the gold and leave their wares, or if 
they think the price offered too little, they divide the 
merchandise into two parts, leaving near the gold 
as much as they are inclined to give for it, and 
then again depart. At their next return the bargain is 
finished, for they either find more gold added or the 
whole taken away, and the goods left on their hands. 

A further confirmation of the existence of this method 
of trading we find in that most interesting voyage of 
Claude Jannequin, Sieur de Rochfort, 1639. He says, 
" In this cursed country " — he always speaks of West 
Africa like that — " there is no provision but fish dried 
in the sun, and maize and tobacco. " The natives will 
only trade by the French laying down on the ground 
what they would give for the provisions, and then going 
away, on which the natives came and took the com- 
modities and left the fish in exchange. The regions he 
visited were those of Cape Blanco. 

To this day you will find a form of this silent trade 
still going on in Guinea. I have often seen on market 
roads in many districts, but always well away from 
Europeanised settlements, a little space cleared by the 


wayside, and neatly laid with plantain leaves, whereon 
were very tidily arranged various little articles for sale — a 
few kola nuts, leaves of tobacco, cakes of salt, a few 
heads of maize, or a pile of yams or sweet potatoes. 
Against each class of articles so many cowrie shells or 
beans are placed, and, always hanging from a branch 
above, or sedately sitting in the middle of the shop, a 
little fetish. The number of cowrie shells or beans in- 
dicate the price of the individual articles in the various 
heaps, and the little fetish is there to see that any one 
who does not place in the stead of the articles removed 
their proper price, or who meddles with the till, shall 
swell up and burst. There is no doubt it is a very easy 
method of carrying on commerce. 

In what the silent trade may have originated it is hard 
to say ; but one thing is certain, that the dread and fear 
of the negroes did not result from the evil effects of the 
slave trade, as so many of their terrors are said to 
have done, for we have seen notice of it long before 
this slave trade arose. Nevertheless, there can be but 
little doubt that it arose from a sense of personal 
insecurity, and has fetish in it, the natives holding it 
safer to leave so dangerous a thing as trafficking with 
unknown beings — white things that were most likely 
spirits, with the smell of death on them — in the hands of 
their gods. In the cases of it that I have seen no doubt 
it was done mostly for convenience, one person being 
thereby enabled to have several shops open at but little 
working expense ; but I have seen it employed as a 
method of trading between tribes at war with each 
other. 1 We must dismiss, I fear, bashfulness regarding 
lips as being a real cause ; but I will not dismiss the 
bleeding lips as a mere traveller's tale, because I have 
seen quite enough to make me understand what those 

1 Mr. Ling Roth kindly informs me of further instances of this 
silent trading to be found in Landei^s Journal, Lond., 1832, iii. 
16 1- 1 63, and Forbes's Wanderings of a Naturalist, Lond. 1886, 
where it is cited for the Kubus of Sumatra. He says it also occurs 
among the Veddahs, and that there is in no case any Fetish 

P 2 



people who told of bleeding thick lips meant ; several, 
not all of my African friends, are a bit thick about the 
lower lip, and when they have been passing over water- 
less sun-dried plateaux or bits of desert they are 
anything but decorative. The lips get swollen and 
black, and Ca da Mostro does not go too far in his 
description of what he was told regarding them. 


Concerning the controversy that is between the French and the 
Portuguese as to which of them first visited West Africa, with 
special reference to the fort at Elmina. 

We will now turn our attention to the other pioneers of 
our present West African trade, and commence with the 
French, for we cannot disassociate our own endeavours 
in this region from those of France, Portugal, Holland, 
and the Brandenburgers ; nor are we the earliest dis- 
coverers here. When we English heard the West African 
Coast was a region worth trading with, those great 
brick-makers for the architects of England's majesty, 
the traders, went for it and traded, and have made that 
trading pay as no other nation has been able to do. 
However, from the first we got called hard names — 
pirates, ruffians, interlopers, and such like — in fact, every 
bad name the other nations could spare from the war 
of abuse they chronically waged against each other. 

The French claim to have traded with West Africa 
prior to the discoveries made there by the emissaries of 
Prince Henry the Navigator. 1 W T hen on my last voyage 

1 See the first edition of Henry the Navigator, by R. H. Major, 
who, with the enormous wealth of his knowledge, vigorously defends 
the claim to Portuguese priority ; although I do not quite agree 
with him on the value of the absence of evidence in disproving the 
French claim, I am deeply indebted to him for the mention of 
references on the point, 


out I was in French territory, I own the discovery of 
this claim of my French friends came down on me as a 
shock, because on my previous voyage out I had been 
in Portuguese possessions, and had spent many a 
pleasant hour listening to the recital of the deeds of 
Diego Cad and Lopez do Gonsalves, and others of that 
noble brand of man, the fifteenth-century Portugee. I 
heard then nothing of French discoverers, and also 
had it well knocked out of my mind that the English 
had discovered anything of importance in West Africa 
save the Niger outfalls, and I had a furious war to 
keep this honour for my fellow countrymen. Then when 
I got into French territory not one word did I hear of 
Diego Cao or Lopez ; and so as a distraction from the 
consideration of the private characters of people still 
living, I started discoursing on what I considered a safer 
and more interesting subject, and began to recount how 
I had had the honour of being personally mixed up in 
the monument to Diego Cao at the mouth of the Congo, 
and what fine fellows — I got no farther than that, when, 
to my horror, I heard my heroes called microbes, 
followed by torrents of navigators' names, all French, 
and all unknown to me. Being out for information I 
never grumble when I get it, let it be what it may. So 
I asked my French friends to write down clearly on 
paper the names of those navigators, and promised as 
soon as I left the forests of the Equator, and reached 
the book forests of Europe, I would try and find out more 
about them. I have ; and I own that I owe profound 
apologies to those truly great Frenchmen for not having 
made their acquaintance sooner ; nevertheless I still fail 
to see why my honoured Portuguese, Diego and Lopez, 
should have been called microbes, and I have no regrets 
about my fights for the honour of the Niger for my own 
countrymen, nor for my constant attempts to take the 
conceit out of my French and Portuguese friends, as a 
set-off for "the conceit about England" they were 
always trying to take out of me, by holding forth on 
what those Carthaginians had done on the West Coast 
before France or Portugal were so much as dreamt of. 


The Portuguese discoveries you can easily read of 
in Major's great book on Prince Henry ; and as this 
book is fully accepted as correct by the highest Por- 
tuguese authorities, it is safer to do so than to attempt 
to hunt your Portuguese hero for yourself, because of 
the quantity of names each of them possesses, and the 
airy indifference as to what part of that name their 
national chroniclers use in speaking of them. I have 
tried it, and have several times been in danger of going 
to my grave with the idea that I was investigating the 
exploits of two separate gentlemen, whereas I was only 
dealing with two parts of one gentleman's name ; 
nevertheless, it is a thing worth learning Portuguese for. 
And, in addition to Major's book, we have now, thanks 
to the Hakluyt Society, that superb thing, the Chronicle 
of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, by Gomez 
Eanes de Zurara — a work completed in 1453. This 
work is one on which we are largely dependent for the 
details of the early Portuguese discoveries, because 
Gomez Eanes spent the later part of his life in tidying 
up the Torre do Tombo— namely, the national archives, 
of which he was keeper — and his idea of tidying up 
included the lady-like method of destroying old papers. 
It makes one cold now to think of the things De Zurara 
may have destroyed ; but he evidently regarded himself, 
as does the nineteenth century spring-cleaner, as a 
human benefactor ; and, strange to say, his contem- 
poraries quite took his view ; indeed, this job was done 
at the request of the Cortes, and with the Royal sanction. 
There is also an outstanding accusation of forgery 
against Zurara, but that is a minor offence, and is one 
we need only take into consideration when contemplating 
the question as to whether a man capable of destroying 
early manuscripts and forgery might not be also capable 
of leaving out of his Chronicle, in honour of the Navi- 
gator, any mention of there being Frenchmen on the 
Coast, when he sent out his emissaries to discover what 
might lay hidden from the eye of man down in the 
Southern Seas. I do not, however, think De Zurara 
left out this thing intentionally, but that he had no 


knowledge of it if it did exist, for no man could have 
written as he wrote, unless he had a heart too great for 
such a meanness. Certain it is Prince Henry never 
knew, for these are the five reasons given by Zurara, in 
the grave, noble splendour of his manner, why the Prince 
undertook the discoveries with which his name will be 
for ever associated. I give the passage almost in full 
because of its beauty. " And you should note well that 
the noble spirit of this Prince (Henry the Navigator) by 
a sort of natural constraint was ever urging him both to 
begin and carry out very great deeds ; for which reason 
after the taking of Ceuta, he always kept ships well 
armed against the Infidel, both for war and because he 
also had a wish to know the land that lay beyond the 
Isles of Canary and that Cape called Bojador, for that up 
to his time neither by writings nor by the memory of 
man was known with any certainty the nature of the 
land beyond that Cape. Some said indeed Saint 
Brandan had passed that way, and there was another 
tale of two galleys rounding the Cape which never 
returned .... and because the said Lord Infant 
wished to know the truth of this — since it seemed to 
him if he, or some other Lord, did not endeavour to gain 
that knowledge, no mariners or merchants would ever 
dare to attempt it, (for the reason that none of them 
ever trouble themselves to sail to a place where there is 
not a sure and certain hope of profit,) and seeing also 
that no other prince took any pains in this matter, he 
sent out his own ships against those parts, to have 
manifest certainty of them all, and to this he was stirred 
up by his zeal for the service of God, and of King Dom 
Duarto, his Lord and brother, who then reigned ; and 
this was the first reason of his action." 

" The second reason was that if there chanced to be 
in those lands a population of Christians or some havens 
into which it would be possible to sail without peril, 
many kinds of merchandise might be brought to this 
nation which would find a ready market, and reasonably 
so because no other people of these parts traded with 
them, nor yet people of any other that were known; 


and also the products of this nation might be taken 
there, which traffic would bring great profit to our 

" The third reason was that as it was said that the 
power of the Moors in that land of Africa was very 
much greater than was commonly supposed, and that 
there were no Christians among them nor any other 
race of men, and because every wise man is obliged 
by natural prudence to wish for a knowledge of the 
power of his enemy ; therefore the said Lord Infant 
exerted himself to cause them to be fully discovered to 
make it known determinedly how far the power of those 
Infidels extended." 

" The fourth reason was because during the one and 
thirty years he had warred against the Moors he had 
never found a Christian King nor a Lord outside this 
land, who for the love of Jesus Christ would aid him 
in the said war ; therefore he sought to know if there 
were in those parts any Christian Princes in whom the 
charity and the love of Christ was so ingrained that they 
would aid him against those enemies of the Faith." 

" The fifth reason was the great desire to make increase 
of the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to bring to 
Him all the souls that should be saved." 

According to the Portuguese, Gil Eannes was the first 
emissary of Prince Henry who succeeded in passing Cape 
Bojador. This feat he accomplished in 1434 ; but on this 
his first voyage out he contented himself with passing the 
Cape : a thing which previous expeditions of Prince 
Henry had failed to do, and which, so far apparently as 
Prince Henry knew, had not been done before, for it was 
regarded as a tremendous achievement. 

The next year Prince Henry's cupbearer, AfTonso Gon- 
salves Baladaya, set out accompanied by Gil Eannes in a 
caravel ; and the coast to the South of Bojador was 
visited ; their furthest expedition was to a shallow bay 
called by them Angra des Ruives. 1 They then returned 

1 This is an interesting case of the alteration that has taken 
place in Portuguese place names in West Africa, Angra des 
Ruives in English is Gurnard Bay, and this name was given to it 


to Portugal, and the next year again went down the 
coast as far as a galley-shaped rock. This place they 
called Pedro de Galli, from its appearance ; its present 
name is Pedra de Galla. Their chief achievement was 
the discovery of the Rio do Oura. It is not an im- 
portant river in itself, but only one of those deceptive 
estuaries common on the West Coast. But it was the 
first West African place the Portuguese got gold dust 
at, hence its name. The amount of gold was appar- 
ently not considerable, and the chief cargo that expedi- 
tion took home was sea wolves' skins ; they reported 
quantities of seals or sea wolves as they called them 
here, and this report was the cause of the next Portu- 
guese expedition ; for the Portuguese in those days seem 
to have always been anxious for sea wolves' oil and 
skins ; and whether this be a survival or no, it seems to 
me curious that the ladies of Lisbon are to this day 
very keen on sealskin jackets, which their climate can 
hardly call for imperatively. But, however this may be, 
it is certain that we have no account of the Portuguese 
having passed south of the next important cape South 
of Bojador, namely, Blanco, before 1443. The terrible 
tragedy of Tangiers and political troubles hindered their 
explorations from 1436 to 1441, 1 and the French claim 
to have been down the West Coast trading not only 
before this date, but before Prince Henry sent a single 
expedition out at all, namely, as early as 1346. 

The French story is that there was a deed of associa- 
tion of the merchants of Dieppe and Rouen of the date 
1364. This deed was to arrange for the carrying on to 
greater proportions of their already existing trade with 
West Africa. The original of this deed was burnt, accord- 
ing to Labat, at Dieppe, in the conflagration of 1 604. 2 How 

by the Portuguese because of the quantity of this fish found there. 
In the West African Pilot you find the place called Garnet Bay, 
and the Pilot says " fish are abundant " ; but as it does not say 
that garnets abound there, nor that it was discovered by Lord 
Wolseley, I think there is reason to believe that its name is 
Gurnard Bay, in translation of Angra des Ruives. 

1 Prince Henry the Navigator j Major. 

2 Labat, Afrique occidentale, vol. iv. p. 8. 1724. 


long before this Association was formed that trade had 
been carried on, it is a little difficult to make out, I find, 
from the usual hindrance to the historical study of West 
Africa, namely, lack of documentary evidence and a 
profusion of recriminatory lying. This Association was 
under the patronage of the Dukes of Normandy, then 
Kings of England ; and its ultimate decay is partly 
attributed to the political difficulties these patrons 
became involved in. The French authorities say the 
Association was an exceedingly flourishing affair ; and it 
is stated that under its auspices factories were established 
at Sierra Leone, and that a fort was built at La Mina del 
Ore, or del Mina, the place now known as Elmina, as 
early as 1382. Now it is round the subject of this fort 
that most controversy wages, for this French statement 
does not at all agree with the Portuguese account of the 
fort. The latter claim to have discovered the coast — 
called by them La Mina, by us the Gold — in 1470, with 
an expedition commanded by Joao de Santarim and 
Pedro de Escobara. The Portuguese, finding this part 
of the coast rich in gold, and knowing the grabbing 
habits of other nations where this was concerned, 
determined to secure this trade for themselves in a sound 
practical way, although they were already guarded by a 
Papal Bull. The expedition that discovered La Mina 
was the last one made during the reign of Affonso V. : 
but his son, who succeeded him as Joao II., rapidly set 
about acting on the information it brought home. This 
king indeed took an intelligent interest in the Guinea 
trade, and was well versed in it ; for a part of his 
revenues before he came to the throne had been derived 
from it and its fisheries. Joao II. energetically pushed 
on the enterprise founded by his father Affonso V., who 
had in 1469 rented the trade of the Guinea Coast to 
Fernam Gomez for five years at 500 equizodas a year, 1 
on the condition that 100 leagues of new coast should be 
discovered annually, starting from Sierra Leone, the 
then furthest known part, and reserving the ivory trade 
to the Crown. The expedition sent out by King Joao, 
1 Equal to nearly ^30 English per annum. 


commanded by the celebrated Diego de Azambuja, took 
with it, in ten caravels and two smaller craft, ready 
fashioned stones and bricks, and materials for building, 
with the intention of building a fort as near as might be 
to a place called Sama, where the previous expedition 
had reported gold dust to be had from the natives. 
This fort was to be a means of keeping up a constant 
trade with the natives, instead of depending only on the 
visits of ships to the coast. Azambuja selected the place 
we know now as Elmina as a suitable site for this fort. 
Having obtained a concession of the land from the King 
Casamanca, on representing to him what an advantage 
it would be to him to have such a strong place wherein 
he and his people could seek security against their 
enemies, and which would act as a constant market place 
for his trade, and a storehouse for the Portuguese goods. 
Azambuja lost no time in building the fort with his ready- 
fashioned materials, and not only the fort, but a church 
as well. Both were dedicated to San Gorge da Mina, 
and a daily mass was instituted to be said therein for the 
repose of the soul of the great Prince Henry the 
Navigator, whose body had been laid to rest in 
November, 1460. Indeed, one cannot but be struck with 
the wealth of Portuguese information that we possess, 
regarding the building of the castle at Elmina and by the 
good taste shown by the Portuguese throughout ; for, 
besides establishing this mass — a mass that should be 
said in all Catholic churches on the West African Coast 
to this day in memory of the great man whose enterprise 
first opened up that great, though terrible region, to the 
civilised world — King Joao granted many franchises and 
privileges to people who would go and live at San 
Gorge da Mina, and aid in expanding the trade and 
civilisation of the surrounding region, which is as it 
should be ; for people who go and live in West Africa 
for the benefit of their country deserve all these things 
and money down as well. Having done these, the king 
evidently thought he deserved some honour himself, 
which he certainly did, so he called himself Lord of 
Guinea, and commanded that all subsequent dis- 


coverers should take possession of the places they 
discovered in a more substantial way than heretofore ; 
for it had been their custom merely to erect wooden 
crosses or to carve on trees the motto of Prince Henry, 
Talent de bien faire. The monuments King Joao 
commanded should be erected in place of these transient 
emblems he designed himself; they were to be square 
pillars of stone six feet high, with his arms upon them, 
and two inscriptions on opposite sides, in Latin and 
Portuguese respectively, containing the exact date when 
the discovery of the place was made ; by his order, the cross 
that was to be on each, was to be of iron and cramped 
into the pedestal. Major says the cross was to surmount 
the structure ; but my Portuguese friends tell me it was 
to be in the pedestal, and also that the remains of these 
old monuments are still to be seen in their possessions ; 
so we must presume that the outfit for an exploring 
expedition in King Joao's days included a considerable 
cargo of ready dressed stones and materials for monu- 
ments, and that from the quantity of discoveries these 
expeditions made, the sixteenth century Portuguese 
homeward bound must have been flying as light as the 
Cardiff bound collier of to-day. 

Still it is remarkable that with all the wealth of detail 
that we have of these Portuguese discoveries in the fif- 
teenth century there is no mention of the French being 
on the coast before Pedro do Cintra reaches Sierra 
Leone and calls it by this name because of the thunder 
on the mountains roaring like a lion, and so on ; but he 
says nothing of French factories ashore. Azambuja 
gives quantities of detail regarding the building of San 
Gorge da Mina, but never says a word about there being 
already at this place a French fort ; yet Sieur Villault, 
Escuyer, Sieur de Bellfond, 1 speaks of it with detail and 
certainty. Also M. Robbe says that one of the ships 
sent out by the association of merchants in 1382 was 
called the Virgin, that she got as far as Kommenda, 

1 A Relation of the Coasts of Africa called Guinea, collected 
by Sieur Villault, Escuyer, Sieur de Bellfond, in the years 1666- 
1667. London : John Starkey, 1670. 


and thence to the place where Mina stands, and that 
next year they built at this place a strong house, in 
which they kept ten or twelve of their men to secure it ; 
and they were so fortunate in this settlement that in 
1387 the colony was considerably enlarged, and did a 
good trade until 141 3, when, owing to the wars in 
France, the store of these adventurers being exhausted, 
they were obliged to quit not only Mina, but their ether 
settlements, as Sestro Paris, Cape Mount, Sierra Leone, 
and Cape Verde. 

Villault, who went to West Africa to stir up the 
French to renew the Guinea trade, openly laments the 
folly of the French in ever having abandoned it owing 
to certain prejudices they had taken against the climate. 
His account of it is that about the year 1346 some ad- 
venturers of Dieppe, a port in Normandy, who as des- 
cendants of the Normans, were well used to long voyages, 
sailed along the coast of the negroes, Guinea, and settled 
several colonies in those parts, particularly about Cape 
Verde, in the Bay of Rio Fesco, and along the Melequeta 
coast. To the Bay, which extends from Cape Ledo to 
Cape Mount, they gave the name of the Bay of France ; 
that of Petit Dieppe to the village of Rio Corso (between 
Rio France and Rio Sestro) ; that of Sestro Paris to 
Grand Sestro, not far from Cape Palmas ; while they 
carried to France great quantities of Guinea pepper and 
elephants' tusks, whence the inhabitants of Dieppe set 
up the trade of turning ivory and making several useful 
works, as combs, for which they grew famous, and still 
continue so. Villault also speaks of " a fair church still 
in being " at Elmina, adorned with the arms of France, 
and also says that the chief battery to the sea is called 
by the natives La Battarie de France ; and he speaks of 
the affection the natives have for France, and says they 
beat their drums in the French manner. Barbot also 
speaks of the affection of the natives for the French, 
and says that on his last voyage in 1682 the king sent 
him his second son as hostage, if he would come up to 
Great Kommondo, and treat about settling in his 
country, although he had refused the English and the 


Dutch. Barbot, however, does not agree with Villault 
about the prior rights of France to the discovery of 
Guinea ; he thinks that if these facts be true it is strange 
that there is no mention of so important an enterprise 
in French historians, and concludes that it would be 
unjust to the Portuguese to attribute the first discovery 
of this part of the world to the French. He also thinks 
it evidence against it that the Portuguese historians are 
silent on the point, and that Azambuja, when he began 
to build his castle at Elmina in 1484, never mentions 
there being a castle there that had been built by French- 
men in 1385. This, however, I think is not real evidence 
against the prior right of France. Take, for instance, 
the examples you get constantly when reading the 
books of Portuguese and Dutch writers on Guinea. You 
cannot fail to be struck how they ignore each other's 
existence as much as possible when credit is to be 
given ; indeed were it not for the necessity they feel 
themselves under of abusing each other, I am sure they 
would do so altogether, but this they cannot resist. 
Here is a sample of what the Portuguese say of the 
Dutch : " That the rebels (meaning the Dutch) gained 
more from the blacks by drunkenness, giving them wine 
and strong liquors, than by force of arms, and instruct- 
ing them as ministers of the Devil in their wickedness. 
But that their dissolute lives and manners, joined to 
the advantage which the Portuguese at Mina, though 
inferior in numbers, had gained over them in some ren- 
contres, had rendered them as contemptible among the 
blacks for their cowardice as want of virtue. That how- 
ever the blacks, being a barbarous people, susceptible of 
first impressions, readily enough swallowed Calvin's 
poison (Protestantism), as well as took off the mer- 
chandise which the Dutch, taking advantage of the 
Portuguese indolence, sold along the coast, where 
they were become absolute pirates." Then, again, the 
same author says, " The quantity of merchandises 
brought by the Dutch and their cheapness, has 
made the barbarians greedy of them, although persons 
of quality and honour assured them that they would 


willingly pay double for Portuguese goods, as suspecting 
the Dutch to be of less value, buying them only for want 
of better." * I could give you also some beautiful 
examples of what the Dutch say of the Portuguese and 
the English, and of what the French say of both, but 
I have not space ; moreover, it is all very like what you 
can read to-day in things about rival nations and traders 
out in West Africa. I myself was commonly called by 
the Portuguese there a pirate because I was English, 
and that was the proper thing to call the English — there 
was no personal incivility meant ; and I quote the above 
passage just to impress on you that when you are reading 
about West African affairs, either ancient or modern, you 
must make allowance for this habit of speaking of rival 
nations — it is the climate. And although the Portuguese 
and the Dutch may choose to ignore the French early 
discoveries, yet they both showed a keen dread of the 
French from their being so popular with the natives, 
and did their utmost to oust them from the West Coast, 
which they succeeded in doing for a long period. And 
then again to this day, when a trader in West Africa 
finds a place where trade is good, he does not cable home 
to the newspapers about it. If it is necessary that any 
lying should be done about that place he does it himself ; 
but what he strives most to do is to keep its existence 
totally unknown to other people ; sooner or later some 
other trader comes along and discovers it, and then that 
place becomes unhealthy for one or the other of its 
discoverers — and that is the climate again. Thus by 
the light of my own dispassionate observations in West 
Africa, I am quite ready to believe in that early French 
discovery ; and I quite agree with Villault about the 
quantity of words derived from the French that you will 
find to this day among the native tongues, and even in 
the trade English of the Coast, and in districts that 
have not been under French sway in the historical 
memory of man. One of these words is the word " Ju 
Ju," always regarded by the natives as a foreign word. 
Their own word for religion, or more properly speaking 
1 Vas Conselo's Life ofKingJoao. 


for sacred beings, is " bosum," or " woka." They only 
say " Ju Ju," so that you white man may understand. 
The percentage, however, of Portuguese words in trade 
English is higher than that of French. 

After the fifteenth century it is not needful now to 
discuss in detail the subject of the French presence in 
West Africa ; for both Dutch and Portuguese freely own 
to the presence there of the Frenchmen, and openly 
state that they were a source of worry and expense to 
them, owing to the way the natives preferred the French 
to either of themselves. 

The whole subject of the French conquests in Africa is 
an exceedingly interesting one, and one I would gladly 
linger over, for there is in it that fascination that always 
lies in a subject which contains an element of mystery. 
The element of mystery in this affair is, why France 
should have persisted so in the matter — why she should 
have spent blood and money on it to the extent she has, 
does, and I am sure will continue to do, without its ever 
having paid her in the past, or paying her now, or being 
likely to pay her in the future, as far as one can see. 
There are moments when it seems to me clear enough 
why she has done it all ; but these moments only come 
when I am in an atmosphere reeking of La Gloire or 
La France — a thing I own I much enjoy ; but when I am 
back in the cold intellectual greyness of commercial 
England, France's conduct in Africa certainly seems a 
little strange and curious, and far more inexplicable 
than it was when one was one's self personally risking 
one's life and ruining one's clothes, after a beetle in the 
African bush. I really think it is this sporting instinct 
in me that enables me to understand France in Africa 
at all ; and which gives me a thrill of pleasure when I 
read in the newspapers of her iniquitous conduct in 
turning up, flag and baggage, in places where she had 
no legal right to be, or, worse still, being found in 
possession of bits of other nations' hinterland when a 
representative of the other arrives there with the in- 
tention of discovering it, and to his disgust and alarm 
finds the most prominent object in the landscape is the 



blue to the mast, blood to the last, flag of France, with 
a fire-and-flames Frenchman under it, possessed of a 
pretty gift of writing communications to the real owner 
of that hinterland — a respectable representative of 
England or Germany — communications threatening him 
with immediate extinction, and calling him a filibuster 
and an assassin, and things like that. For the life of me 
I cannot help a " Go it, Sal, and I'll hold your bonnit " 
feeling towards the Frenchman. It is not my fault 
entirely. Gladly would I hold my own countryman's 
bonnet, only he won't go it if I do ; so I have to content 
myself with the knowledge that England has made the 
West Coast pay, and that she certainly did beat the 
Dutch and Portuguese off the Coast in a commercial 
war. Still she will never beat France off in that way, 
because the French interest in Africa is not a commercial 
one. France can and will injure our commerce in West 
Africa, in all probability she will ultimately extinguish 
it, if things go on as they are going, while we cannot hit 
back and injure her commercial prosperity there because 
she has none to injure. There is also another point 
of great interest, and that is the different effect pro- 
duced by the governmental interference of the two 
nations in expansion of territory. That the expansion 
of trade, and spheres of influence are concurrent in 
this region is now recognised by our own Government; 1 
although the Government somewhat flippantly remarks 
" possibly too late." It is, in my opinion, certainly too 
late as regards both Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast ; 
but yet we see small evidence of our Government 
taking themselves seriously in the matter, or of their 
feeling a regret for having failed to avail themselves of 
the work done for England on the West Coast by some 
of the noblest men of our blood. I have often heard 
it said it was a sad thing for an Englishman to con- 
template our West African possessions, save one, the 
Royal Niger ; but I am sure it is a far sadder thing 
for an Englishwoman who is full of the pride of her 
race, and who well knows that that pride can only be 
1 Duke of Devonshire's speech at Liverpool, June, 1897. 


justified by its men, to see on the one hand the splendid 
achievements of Mungo Park, the two Landers, the men 
who held the Gold Coast for England when the Gov- 
ernment abandoned it after the battle of Katamansu, 
of Winwood Reade, who, in the employ of Messrs. 
Swanzy, won the right to the Niger beyond Sierra 
Leone, and many others ; and on the other hand to 
see the map of West Africa to-day, which shows only 
too clearly that the English Government's last chance 
of saving the honour of England lies in their supporting 
the Royal Niger Company. 

It seems that as soon as a West Coast region falls 
under direct governmental control with us a process of 
petrification sets in, with a policy of international ami- 
ability and Reubenism, for which we have Scriptural 
authority to expect nothing but failure. It was of 
course necessary for our Government to take charge in 
West Africa when the partitioning of that continent 
took place ; but I fail to admire those men who at the 
Council Board of Europe lost for England what had 
been won for her by better, braver men. Still it is no 
use, in these weird un-Shakesperian times, for any one 
to use strong language, so I'll turn to the consideration 
of the advance made in West Africa by France ; for any 
one can understand how a woman must admire the 
deeds of brave men and the backing up of those deeds 
by a brave Government. 

The earlier history of the French occupation of Africa 
is that of a series of commercial companies, who all 
came to a bad end. Of the Association of the 
Merchants of Dieppe and Rouen in the fourteenth 
century I have already spoken ; and whatever may be 
the difficulty of proving its existence in 1364, there is, 
I believe, no one who doubts that it had an existence 
that terminated in 1664. The French authorities 
ascribe its fall to the wars in France that succeeded the 
death of Charles VI., 1392, and to the death of some of 
the principal merchants belonging to it ; but " the 
greatest cause of all was that many who had gotten 
vast riches began to be ashamed of the name of 

Q 2 


traders, although to that they owed their fortunes, 
and allying with the nobility set up as quality," and 
neglected business in the usual way, when this happens. 
The most flourishing settlements went into decay, and 
were abandoned all save one, on the Isle of Sanaga, 
or what Labat calls the Niger, the river we now call 
the Senegal. 1 

This French settlement is to this day one of the 
main French ports in Africa, and it has remained in 
their possession, with the brief interval of falling into 
the hands of the English for a few months. 

The Company that took over the enterprise of this 
Rouen and Dieppe Association in 1664 was called the 
Compagnie des Indes Occidentales ; it paid for the 
stock and rights of the previous Association the sum 
of 150,000 livres, and it had tremendous ambitions, for 
not only did it buy up the West African enterprise, 
but also the rights of the lords proprietors in the isles of 
Martinique, Guadaloupe, St. Christopher, Santa Cruz, 
and Maria Galanta in the West Indies. This Company 
came to a sad end when it had still thirty years of its 
charter to run ; in 1673 it sold its remaining term of 
West African rights to a new Company called d'Afrique 
for 7,500 livres. Its West Indian possessions the king 
seized in 1674, and united them with the Crown. 

. Its successor, the Compagnie d'Afrique, started with 
its thirty years' charter, and all the great ambitions of 
its predecessor. The king gave it every assistance in 
the way of ships and troops to carry out its designs ; 
and it availed itself of these, for finding its trade 
incommoded by the Dutch, who were then settled at 
Anguin and Goree in 1677, it got the king to remove 
the Dutch nuisance from Goree by an expedition 
under Count d'Estras, and in 1678, by an expedition 
of its own, under M. de Casse, it cleared the Dutch 
out of Anguin. 

This Company also made many treaties with the 

1 Labat. At present the Isle of St. Louis, and what is called 
the Niger, is the River Sanaga— or Senega and Senegal, as the 
French corrupt it. — Astley, 1745. 


native chiefs. In 1679, by means of treaty with the 
chiefs of Rio Fresco, nowadays barbarously spelt 
Rufisque, and Portadali, now Portindal, and Joal, whose 
name is still uninjured, it acquired rights over all the 
territory between Cape Verde and the Gambia ; 1 an 
exclusion from there of all other traders, and an exemp- 
tion from all customs ; and in addition to these enter- 
prises it entered into a contract with the King of France 
to provide him with 2,000 negroes per annum for his 
West Indian Islands, and as many more as he might 
require for use in the galleys. Shortly after this 
the Compagnie d'Afrique expired in bankruptcy, com- 
pounding with its creditors at the rate of 5^. in the £, 
which I presume was paid mainly out of the 1,010,000 
livres for which it sold its claim to its successors. The 
successors were a little difficult to find at first, for there 
seems to have been what one might call distaste for 
West African commercial enterprise among the French 
public just then. However, a Company was got together 
to buy up its rights, accept its responsibilities and carry 
on business in 1681. 

In the matter of the Company that succeeded the 
d'Afrique, confusion is added to catastrophe, owing to 
the then Minister of State, M. Seignelay, for some private 
end, having divided up the funds and created two separ- 
ate Companies — one to have the trade from Cape Blanco 
and the Gambia — the Compagnie du Senegal ; the other 
to hold the rest of the Guinea trade to the Cape of Good 
Hope, the Compagnie du Guinea. This arrangement, of 
course, left the Senegal Company with all the responsi- 
bility of the Compagnie d'Afrique, and without sufficient 
funds to deal with them ; and the Compagnie du Sene- 
gal complained, when, in 1694, it found its affairs in 
much confusion, throwing the blame on the Govern- 
ment"; but, says Astley, " the great are seldom without 
excuses for what they do," and the division of the con- 
cession was persisted in, on the grounds that when the 
Company that succeeded d'Afrique was intact it failed to 

1 An extent of thirty leagues and six leagues within the land. — 
Labat, p. 19. 


fulfil the Government contract of sending 2,000 negroes 
annually to the West Indies ; and also that it had not 
imported as much gold from Africa as it might have 
done. Against this the Directors remonstrated loudly, 
saying that, within the two years and a half during 
which they had been responsible for exporting negroes 
to the West Indies, they had supplied 4,560 negroes, that 
the register of the Mint proved they had sent home in 
three years 400 marks of gold, and that it had cost them 
400,000 livres to re-establish the trade of the Compagnie 
d'Afrique, for which they had already paid more than it 
was worth. All they got by these complaints was an 
extension of their trade rights from Gambia to Sierra 
Leone and a confirmation of their monopoly in export- 
ing negroes to the French West Indies, and of their rights 
to Anguin and Goree, that is to say, a promise of Gov- 
ernment assistance if those Dutch should come and 
attempt to reinstate themselves to the incommodation of 
French commerce. 

All this however did not avail to make the Compagnie 
du Senegal flourish, so in 1694 it sold its remaining 
seventeen years of rights for 300,000 livres, to Sieur 
d'Apougny, one of the old Directors ; and this enter- 
prising man secured the assistance of eighteen new 
shareholders, and obtained from the Crown a new charter 
and started afresh under the name of the " Compagnie 
du Senegal, Cap Nord et Cote d'Afrique." It did not 
prosper ; nevertheless it may be regarded as having pro- 
duced the founder of modern Senegal, for it sent out to 
attend to its affairs, when things were in a grievous mess, 
one of the greatest men who have ever gone from Europe 
to Africa — namely Sieur Briie. 

The name of this Company of Sieur d'Apougny was 
d'Afrique ; and the usual thing happened to it in 
1709, when, for 250,000 livres, it made over its rights 
to a set of Rouen merchants, reserving, however, to 
itself the right of carrying on certain branches of the 
trade for which it held Government contracts ; failing 
to carry these out they were taken from it and 
handed over to the Company of Rouen merchants, 


who succumbed to their liabilities in 17 17. Their 
rights were then bought up, for 1,600,000 livres, by 
the already established Mississippi Company of Paris, 
a company which survived until 1758. 

In 1758 the English again captured St. Louis, the 
French main post in Senegal. In 1779 the French re- 
captured it, and it was ceded to them by England 
officially in the treaty of 1783. This was merely the 
usual kind of international amenity prevalent on the 
West Coast in those days. Dutch, French, English, 
Danes, Portuguese, and Courlanders would gallantly 
seize each other's property out there, while the re- 
spective Governments at home, if the matter were 
brought before their notice, and it was apparently worth 
their while, disowned all knowledge of their representa- 
tives' villanies and returned the booty to the prior 
owner on paper. The aggrieved Power then engaged in 
the difficult undertaking of regaining possession ; the 
said original villain knowing little and caring less about 
the arrangements made on the point by his home 
Government. But just at this period England dealt 
French trade a frightful blow. The whole of her ini- 
quity took the form of one John Law, a native of 
Edinburgh, 1 who raised himself to the dignity of comp- 

1 John Law was the eldest son of an Edinburgh goldsmith, born 
about 1681. " Bred to no business, but possessed of great abilities, 
and a fertile invention," he, when very young, recommended him- 
self to the King's Ministers in Scotland to arrange fiscal matters, 
then in some confusion from the Union of the Kingdoms. His 
scheme, however, was not adopted. Great at giving other people 
good advice on money matters, he failed to manage his own. After 
a gay career in Edinburgh, and gaining himself the title of " Beau 
Law," he got mixed up in a duel, and fled to the Continent. He was 
banished from Venice and Genoa for draining the youth of those 
cities of their money, and wandered about Italy, living on gaming 
and singular bets and wagers. He proposed his scheme to the 
Duke of Savoy, who saw by this scheme he could soon, by deceiving 
his subjects in this manner, get the whole of the money of the king- 
dom into his possession ; but as Law could not explain what 
would happen then, he was repulsed, and proceeded to Paris, 
where, under the patronage of the Due d'Orleans, he found 
favour with Louis XIV. When his crash came he was exiled, 
and died in Venice in 1729. 


troller-general of the finance of France by a specious 
scheme for a bank, an East India Company and a 
Mississippi Company, by the profits of which the French 
national debt was to be paid off, a thing then in urgent 
need of doing, and every one connected with the affair 
was to make their fortunes, an undertaking always in 
need of doing in any country. The French Govern- 
ment gave him every encouragement, and in 1 716 he 
opened the bank ; in 17 19 the shares of that bank were 
worth more than eighty times the current specie in 
France: in 1720 the bank burst, spreading commercial 
ruin. To this may be ascribed the period of paralysis 
in the Senegal trade from 17 19. The Compagnie de 
Senegal had handed over their interest to the Mississippi 
Company involved in John Law's bank scheme. After 
this, up to 18 1 7, France, like F. M. the Duke of 
Wellington anent playing upon the harp, "had other 
things to do " than attend to West Africa. During the 
Napoleonic Wars England took all the French pos- 
sessions in West Africa, but by the treaty of Paris of 
1 8 14 she handed back those in Senegal, save the Gambia. 
The French vessel sent out to take over the territory 
was the ill-starred and ill-navigated Meduse. Owing to 
her wreck it was not until 1817 that France replaced 
officially her standard on this Coast. On the 25th of 
January of that year, and represented by Colonel Smaltz, 
she again entered into possession of Goree and St. Louis 
in the mouth of the Senegal, which was practically all 
she had, and that was in a very unsatisfactory state. 
Colonel Smaltz, in 18 19, had to come to an agreement 
with the Oulof chief of the St. Louis district to pay him 
a subsidy, but a mere catalogue of the wars between 
the French and the Oulofs is not necessary here ; they 
were mutually unsatisfactory until there enters on the 
scene that second great founder or the French power 
in Africa, General Faidherbe, in 1854. Faidherbe is 
indeed the founder; but had it not been for Sieur 
Briie and his travels far into the interior, and the 
evidence he collected regarding the riches therein, and of 
the general value of the country, it is not likely that, 


as things were in 1854, France would have troubled 
herself so much about extending her power in Senegal. 

Faidherbe was also one of those men who get possessed 
by a belief in the future of West Africa, regardless of 
any state of dilapidation they may find it in, and who 
have the power of infusing their enthusiasm into the 
minds of others ; and he roused France to the import- 
ance of Senegal, saying prophetically, " Our possession 
on the West Coast of Africa is possibly the one of all our 
Colonies that has before it the greatest future, and it de- 
serves the whole sympathy and attention of the Empire." 

These were words more likely to inspire France or 
any other reasonable Power with a desire to give 
Senegal attention, than those used by the previous 
French visitor there, M. Sanguin, in 1785, who, speak- 
ing of the island of St. Louis, says it consists entirely 
of burning sands on whose barren surface you some- 
times meet with scattered flints thrown out among their 
ballast by ships, and the ruins of buildings formerly 
erected by Europeans ; but he remarks it is not sur- 
prising the sands are barren, for the air is so strongly 
impregnated with salt, which pervades everything and 
consumes even iron in a very short space of time. The 
heat he reports unpleasant, and rendered thus more so 
by the reflection from the sand. If the island were not 
all it might be, one might still hope for better things 
ashore on the mainland, but not according to M. San- 
guin. The mainland is covered with sand and overrun 
with mangles, not the sort, you understand, that vulgar 
little English boys used to state their mothers had sold 
and invested the money in a barrel organ, but what we 
now call mangroves ; then, mentioning that the St. Louis 
water supply was the cause of most of those maladies 
which carry off the Europeans so rapidly, that at the 
end of every three years the colony has a fresh set of 
inhabitants, M. Sanguin discourses on the charms of 
West African night entertainments in a most feeling 
and convincing way, stating that there was an infinity of 
gnats called mosquitoes, which exist in incredible quan- 
tities. He does not mind them himself, oh dear no ! 


being a sort of savage, he says, totally indifferent to the 
impression he may create on the fair sex, so that, if you 
please, he smears himself over with butter, which pre- 
serves him from the mosquitoes' impertinent stings. 
How he came by a sufficiency of butter for this purpose 
I won't pretend to know ; but he knew mosquitoes, for 
impertinent is a perfect word for them. M. Sanguin, 
however, was not the sort of man, with all his ability 
and enterprise, to advertise Senegal successfully to 
France. Whatever Frenchman would care to go to a 
land where he needs must be sufficiently indifferent to 
the fair sex to smear himself with butter ! Dire and 
awful dangers and miscellaneous horrors, even to being 
carried off by maladies among mangles in an atmosphere 
stiff with mosquitoes, but not that ! 

Now Faidherbe was different. Remember to the 
honour of the man he started with the above-described 
environment, but he took the grand tone and did not 
dwell on local imperfections ; the burning sands of 
Senegal he mentioned, as all who know them are, by a 
natural constraint, forced, as Azurara would say, to do, 
but he said our intentions are pure and noble, our cause 
is just, the future cannot fail us ; 1 and with such words, 
to his credit and to the credit of La France, he spoke 
to her heart ; and he spoke truly, for with all its failures, 
with all the fearful loss of the lives of Frenchmen, 
Senegal is a grand thing, and it is a great thing for 
France, for from it has risen her masterdom over the 
Western Soudan — a work also inaugurated by Faidherbe, 
through his support of Lieutenant Maze, who reached 
the Niger. Practical in his work Faidherbe was also — 
by rebuilding the fort at Medina — the annexation 
of the Oulof country (1856); the institution of a 
battalion of natives Tirailleurs (1857) ; the telegraph line 
between St. Louis and Goree (1862); the construction 
of the harbour at Darkar and the erection of a first-class 
light-house at Cape Verde (1864) ; and the annexation of 
the kingdom of Cayore (1865). A grand record ! and 
one that would be grander for France were it not 
1 Notice de Senegal, Paris, 1859, p. 99. 


for the mismanagement that followed Faidherbe's rule 
in commercial and financial matters. 

The want of financial success in her enterprise in West 
Africa is a matter that has constantly irritated France. 
She is continually saying : " English possessions on that 
Coast pay, why should not mine ? " It is not my business 
to obtrude on her an answer, I merely dwell on the 
subject because I clearly see there are creeping nowadays 
into our own methods of managing Africa, those very same 
causes of financial failure that have afflicted her, namely, 
too high tariffs, too exaggerated views of the immediate 
profits to be got from those regions, and certain unfair 
methods of dealing with natives. 

In attempting, however, to account for the trade from 
the French possessions in West Africa being proportion- 
ately so small to the immense area of country, the make 
of the country and its native inhabitants must be taken 
into consideration. Enormous districts of the French 
possessions are, to put it mildly, not fertile, and capable 
of producing in the way of a marketable commodity 
only gum, which is gathered from the stems of the acacia 
horrida. It is an excellent gum, and there is plenty of 
this acacia, and other gum-yielding acacias, but pickers 
are not so plentiful, particularly now French authorities 
object to native enterprise taking the form of raiding 
districts for slaves to employ in the industry. Other 
enormous districts, however, are as fertile as need be, and 
densely forested with forests rich in magnificent timber 
and rubber wealth. The inhabitants, a most important 
factor in the prosperity or otherwise of West African 
regions, are varied, but roughly speaking, we may say 
France possesses the whole of the tawny Moors, and 
tawny Moors have their good points and their bad. 
Their good point, from our present point of view, is 
their commercial enterprise. From the earliest his- 
torical account we have of them to the present day, 
it has been their habit to suck the trade out of the 
rich and fertile districts, carry it across the desert, and 
trade it with the white Moors, who, in their turn, car- 
ried it to the Mediterranean and Red Sea ports. The 


opening of the West Coast seaboard trade, inaugurated 
by the Portuguese, has acted as a commercial loss to 
the tawny Moors during the past 400 years, and must 
be held, in a measure, accountable for the decay of the 
great towns of Timbuctoo, Jcnne, Mele, and so on, though 
only in a measure, for herein comes the bad point of 
the inhabitants of the Western Soudan, from our point 
of view, namely, their devotion to religious differences 
and politics, which prevents their attending to business. 
As this state of internecine war came on about the same 
period as the opening to the black Moors and negroes 
of a market direct with European traders in the Bight 
of Benin, it hurried the tawny Moors to commercial 
decay. Timbuctoo never recovered the blow dealt her 
by the Moorish conquest in 1 591. At the breaking up 
of the Empire of Askia the Great, revolt and war raged 
through the region, Jenne revolted in the west, an 
example followed by the Touaregs, Fulah and Malin- 
kase tribes. Both north and south were thrown into 
confusion, and Timbuctoo, their intermediary, finding 
her commerce injured, rebelled in her turn. She was 
conquered and brutally repressed by the Moorish con- 
querors in 1594. A terrible dearth provoked by a lack 
of rain visited the town, and her inhabitants were re- 
duced to eating the corpses of animals, and even of men. 
This was followed by the pestilence of 161 8, 1 but 
through this arose any quantity of wars and upheavals 
of political authority among the tawny Moors in the 
early days of European intercourse with the West 
African Coast. They assumed a more acute, religious 
form in our own century, or to be more accurate just 
at the end of the eighteenth, when Shazkh Utham 
Danfodio arose among the Fulahs as a religious 
reformer, and a warrior missionary. He was a great 
man at both, but as a disturber of traffic still greater, 
a thing that cannot . be urged to so great an extent 
against the other great Muslam missionary Umaru 
l'Haji. Still his gathering together an army of 20,000 

1 For an interesting account of Timbuctoo and its history, see 
Timbuctoo the Mysterious^ by M. Felix Dubois. 1897. 


men in 1854-55, and going about with them on a 
series of proselytizing expeditions against any tribe in 
the Upper Niger and Senegal region he found to be 
in an unconverted state, was little better than a 
nuisance to the French authorities at that time. 
Danfodio's affairs have fallen into the hands of England 
to arrange, and very efficiently her great representative in 
West Africa, the Royal Niger Company, has arranged 
them. But for our Danfodio and his consequences, 
France has had twenty, and she has dealt with them 
both gallantly and patiently. But there will always be, 
as far as one can see, trouble for France with her tawny 
Moors, now that the sources of their support are cut 
off from them by many of the districts they once drew 
their trade from — the sea-board districts of the Benin 
Bight, like Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos, in 
the English Niger — being in the hands of a nation whose 
commercial instincts enable it to see the benefits of 
lower tariffs than France affects. Even were our tariffs 
to be raised to-morrow, the trade would again begin to 
drain back into the hands of its old owners, the tawny 
Moors, for the Western Soudan is being pacified by 
France. If some way is not devised of providing the 
tawny Moors with trade sufficient to keep them, things 
must go badly there, owing to the unfertility of the 
greater part of their country and the increase of the popu- 
lation arising from the pacification of the Western 
Soudan, which France is effecting. I will dwell no 
longer on this sketch of the history of the advance of 
France in Western Africa. We in England cannot judge 
it fairly. Nationally, her honour there is our disgrace ; 
commercially, her presence is our ruin. 

Two things only stand out from these generalisations. 
The Royal Niger Company shows how great England 
can be when she is incarnate in a great man, for the 
Royal Niger Company is so far Sir George Taubman- 
Goldie. The other thing that stands out unstained by 
comatose indifference to the worth of West Africa to 
England is her Commerce as represented by her West 
Coast traders, who have held on to the coast since the 


sixteenth century with a bulldog grip, facing death and 
danger, fair weather and foul. Fine things both these 
two things arc, but they do not understand each other ; 
they would certainly not understand me regarding their 
affairs were I to talk from June to January, so I won't 
attempt to, but speak to the general public, who so far 
have understood neither Sir George Goldie, nor the 
West Coast trader, nor for the matter of that their 
mutual foe France, and I beg to say that France has not 
been so destructive an enemy to England there as 
England's own folly has been as incarnate in the parlia- 
mentary resolution of 1865 ; that the achievements of 
France in exploration in the Western Soudan make one of 
the grandest pages of all European efforts in Africa ; that 
the influence of France over the natives has been, is, 
and, I believe, will remain good. " Our intentions are 
pure and noble, our cause is just, the future cannot 
fail us," said Faidherbe. So far as the natives are 
concerned, this has been the policy of France in Western 
Africa. So far as diplomatic relations with ourselves, 
humanly speaking, it has not ; but diplomacy is dip- 
lomacy, and the amount of probity — justice — in diplo- 
macy is a thing that would not at any period cover a 
threepenny-bit. It is a form of war that shows no 
blood, but which has not in it those things which 
sanctify red war, honour and chivalry. Nevertheless, 
diplomacy is an essential thing in this world ; it does 
good work, it saves life, it increases prosperity, it advances 
the cause of religion and knowledge, and therefore the 
World must not be hard on it for its being — what it is. 
Personally, I prefer contemplating other things, and so I 
turn to commerce. 



Concerning the reasons that deter this writer from entering here 
on a general history of the English, Dutch, and Portuguese in 
Western Africa ; to which is added some attempt to survey 
the present state of affairs there. 

Lack of space, not lack of interest, prevents me 
from sketching the careers of other nations in West 
Africa even so poorly as I have that of France ; but the 
truth is, the material for the history of the other nations 
is so enormous that in order to present it with any- 
thing approaching clearness or fairness, folio volumes 
are required. I have a theory of the proper way to 
write the history of all European West African enter- 
prises — a theory I shall endeavour to put into prac- 
tice if I am ever cast ashore on an uninhabited island, 
with a suitable library, a hogshead of ink, a few tons of 
writing paper, accompanied by pens, and at least a 
quarter of a century of uninterrupted calm at my dis- 
posal. The theory itself is short, so I can state it here. 
Pay no attention to the nasty things they say about 
each other — it's the climate. 

The history of the Portuguese occupation of West 
Africa is the great one. The material for its early 
geographico-historical side is in our hands, owing to the 
ability of Mr. Major and his devotion to the memory 
of Prince Henry the Navigator. But the history of 


Portugal in West Africa from the days of the Navi- 
gator onwards wants writing. Sir A. B. Ellis fortunately 
gives us, in his history of the Gold Coast, an account 
of the part that Portugal played there, but, except for 
this region, you must hunt it up second-hand in the 
references made to it by prejudiced rivals, or in scattered 
Portuguese books and manuscripts. While as for the 
commercial history of Portugal in West Africa, although 
it has been an unbroken one from the fifteenth century 
to our own time, it has so far not been written at all. 
This seems to me all the more deplorable, because it is 
full of important lessons for those nations who are now 
attempting to exploit the regions she first brought them 
into contact with. 

It must be noted, for one thing, that Portugal was 
the first European nation to tackle Africa in what is 
now by many people considered the legitimate way, 
namely, by direct governmental control. Other nations 
left West African affairs in the hands of companies 
of merchant adventurers and private individuals for cen- 
turies. Nevertheless, Portugal is nowadays unpopular 
among the other nations engaged in exploiting Africa. 
I shrink from embroiling myself in controversy, but I am 
bound to say I think she has become more unpopular on 
account of prejudice coupled with that strange moral 
phenomenon that makes men desirous of persuading 
themselves that a person they have treated badly 
deserves such treatment. 

The more powerful European nations have dealt 
scandalously, from a moral standpoint, with Portugal in 
Africa. This one could regard calmly, it being in the 
nature of powerful nations to do this sort of thing, were 
it not for the airs they give themselves ; and to hear 
them talking nowadays about Portugal's part in African 
history is enough to make the uninitiated imagine that 
the sweet innocent things have no past of their own, and 
never knew the price of black ivory. 

" Oh, but that is all forgiven and forgotten, and Por- 
tugal is just what she always was at heart," you say. 
Well, Portugal at heart was never bad, as nations go. 


Her slaving record is, in the point of humanity to the 
cargo, the best that any European nation can show who 
has a slaving West African past at all. 

The thing she is taxed with nowadays mainly is that 
she does not develop her possessions. Developing 
African possessions is the fashion, so naturally Portugal, 
who persists on going about in crinoline and poke bon- 
net style, gets jeered at. This is right in a way, so long 
as we don't call it the high moral view and add to it 
libel. I own that my own knowledge of Portuguese 
possessions forces me to regard those possessions as in 
an unsatisfactory state from an imperialistic standpoint ; 
a grant made by the home government for improve- 
ments, say roads, has a tendency to — well, not appear 
as a road. Some one — several people possibly — is all 
the better and happier for that grant ; and after all if 
you do not pay your officials regularly, and they are 
not Englishmen, you must take the consequences. 
Even when an honest endeavour is made to tidy things 
up, a certain malign influence seems to dodge its foot- 
steps in a Portuguese possession. For example, when 
I was out in '93, Portugal had been severely reminded 
by other nations that this was the Nineteenth Century. 
Bom Dios — Bother it, I suppose it is — says Portugal — 
must do something to smarten up dear Angola. She 
is over 400 now, and hasn't had any new frocks since 
the slave trade days ; perhaps they are right, and it's 
time this dear child came out. So Loanda, Angola, was 
ordered street lamps — stylish things street lamps! — a 
telephone, and a water supply. Now, say what you 
please, Loanda is not only the finest, but the only, city in 
West Africa. " Lagos !" you ejaculate — "you don't know 
Lagos." I know I have not been ashore there ; never- 
theless I have contemplated that spot from the point 
of view of Lagos bar for more than thirty solid hours, 
to say nothing of seeing photographs of its details 
galore, and I repeat the above statement. Yet for all 
that, Loanda had no laid-on water supply nor public 
street lamps until she was well on in her 400th year, 
which was just before I first met her. During the past 



she had had her water brought daily in boats from tl 
Bengo River, and for street lighting she relied on the 
private enterprise of her citizens. 1 The reports given 
me on these endeavours to develop were as follows. 
As for the water in its laid-on state, it was held by the 
more aristocratic citizens to be unduly expensive (500 
reis per cubic metre), and they grumbled. The general 
public, though holding the same opinion, did not confine 
their attention to grumbling. Stand-pipes had been put 
up in suitable places and an official told off to each 
stand-pipe to make a charge for water drawn. Water 
in West Africa is woman's palaver, and you may say 
what you please about the down-troddenness of African 
ladies elsewhere, but I maintain that the West African 
lady in the matter of getting what she wants is no dis- 
credit to the rest of the sex, black, white, or yellow. In 
this case the ladies wanted that water, but did not go so 
far as wanting to pay for it. In the history given to me 
it was evident to an unprejudiced observer that they 
first tried kindness to the guardian officials of the 
stand-pipes, but these men were of the St. Anthony 
breed, and it was no good. Checked, but not foiled, 
in their admirable purpose of domestic economy, those 
dear ladies laid about in their minds for other 
methods, and finally arranged that one of a party 
visiting a stand-pipe every morning should devote her 
time to scratching the official while the rest filled 
their water pots and hers. This ingenious plan was in 
working order when I was in Loanda, but since 
leaving it I do not know what modification it may 
have undergone, only I am sure that ultimately those 
ladies will win, for the African lady — at any rate 
the West Coast variety — is irresistible ; as Livingstone 
truly remarked " They are worse than the men." In 
the street lamp matter I grieve to say that the story 
as given to me does not leave my own country blame- 
less. Portugal ordered for Loanda a set of street 
lamps from England. She sent out a set of old gas 

1 Loanda has now a gas company, and the installation is well 
under way, under Belgian supervision. 

[To face page 242. 

Cliffs at Loanda. 


lamp standards. There being no gas in Loanda there 
was a pause until oil lamps to put in them came out. 
They ultimately arrived, but the P.W.D. failed to provide 
a ladder for the lamplighter. Hence that worthy had 
to swarm each individual lamp-post, a time-taking per- 
formance which normally landed him in the arms of 
Aurora before Loanda was lit for the night ; but how- 
ever this may be, I must own that Loanda's lights at 
night are a truly lovely sight, and its P.W.D. 's chimney 
a credit to the whole West Coast of Africa, to say 
nothing of its Observatory and the weather reports it so 
faithfully issues, so faithfully and so scientifically that 
it makes one deeply regret that Loanda has not got a 
climate that deserves them, but only one she might write 
down as dry and have done with it. 

The present position of the Angola trade is interest- 
ing, instructive, and typical. I only venture to speak 
on it in so far as I can appeal to the statements of Mr. 
Nightingale, who is an excellent authority, having been 
long resident in Angola, and heir to the traditions of 
English enterprise there, so ably represented by the 
firm of Newton, Carnegie and Co. The trade of Ka 
Kongo, the province dependent on Angola, I need not 
mention, because its trade is conditioned by that of its 
neighbours Congo Francais and the Congo Beige. 

The interesting point — painfully interesting — is the 
supplanting of English manufactures, and the way in 
which the English shipping interest x at present suffers 
from the differential duties favouring the Portuguese 
line, the Empreza Nacional de Navigacao a Vapor. 
This line, on which I have had the honour of travelling, 
and consuming in lieu of other foods enough oil and 
olives for the rest of my natural life, is an admirable 
line. It shows a calm acquiescence in the ordinances 
of Fate, a general courteous gentleness, combined with 

1 Referring to cotton goods, the Foreign Office report on the trade 
of Angola for 1896 (1949) says the same cottons coming from Man- 
chester would pay 250 reis per kilo in foreign bottoms, and 80 per 
cent, of 250 reis if coming in Portuguese bottoms and nationalised 
in Lisbon. 

R 2 


strong smells and the strain of stringed instruments, not 
to be found on other West Coast boats. It runs two 
steamers a month (6th and 23rd) from Lisbon, and they 
call at Madeira, St. Vincent, Santiago, Principe and San 
Thome Islands, Kabinda, San Antonio (Kongo), Ambriz, 
Loanda, Ambrizzette, Novo Redondo, Benguella, Mos- 
samedes and Port Alexander, every alternate steamer 
calling at Liverpool. The other steamboat lines that 
visit Loanda are the African and British- African of 
Liverpool, which run monthly, in connection with the 
other South- West African ports; and the Woermann 
line from Hamburg. The French Chargeurs-Reunis 
started a line of steamers from Havre via Lisbon to 
Loanda, Madagascar, Delagoa Bay, touching at Cape- 
town, when so disposed, but this line has discontinued 
calling in on Loanda. The other navigation for Angola 
is done by the Rio Quanza Company, which runs two 
steamers up that river as far as Dondo ; but this indus- 
try, Dondo included, Mr. Nightingale states to be in a 
parlous state since the extension of the Royal Trans- 
African Railway Company 1 to Cazengo, "as all the 
coffee which previously came via Dondo by means of 
carriers, now comes by rail, the town of Dondo is almost 
deserted ; the house property which a few years ago was 
valued at ^"200,000 sterling, to-day would not realise 
;£ 1 0,000." I may remark in this connection, however, 
not to raise the British railway-material makers' feelings 
unduly, that all this railway's rolling stock and material 
is Belgian in origin. This seems to be the fate of African 
railways. I am told it is on account, for one thing, of 
the way in which the boilers of the English locomotives 
are set in, namely, too stiffly, whereby they suffer more 
over rough roads than the more loosely hung together 
foreign-made locomotives ; and, for another, that English- 
made rolling stock is too heavy for rough roads, and 
that roads under the conditions in Africa cannot be 

1 Angola also has a small railway from Catumbella to Ben- 
guella, a distance of 15 kiloms, and is contemplating constructing 
an important line from either Benguella or Mossamedes up to 

[To face page 244. 

Domdo Angola. 


otherwise than rough, &c. It is not, however, Belgian 
stuff alone that is competing and ousting our own from 
the markets of Angola. American machinery, owing to 
the personal enterprise of several American engineering 
firms, is supplying steam-engines and centrifugal pumps 
for working salt at Cucuaco, and machinery for dealing 
with sugar-cane. Mr. Nightingale says the cultivation 
of the sugar-cane is rapidly extending, for the sole pur- 
pose of making rum. The ambition of every small 
trader, after he has put a few hundreds of milreis 
together, is to become a fazendeiro (planter) and make 
rum, for which there is ever a ready sale. But regarding 
the machinery, Mr. Nightingale says : " Up to the pre- 
sent time no British firm has sent out a representative to 
this province. There is a fair demand for cane-crushing 
mills, steam engines and turbines. A representative of 
an American firm is out here for the third time within 
four years, and has done good business ; and there is no 
reason why the British manufacturers should not do as 
well. The American machinery is inferior to British 
makes, and cheaper ; but it sells well, which is the prin- 
cipal thing." 

It is the same story throughout the Angola trade. 
No English matches come into its market. The Com- 
panhia de Mossemedes, which is only nominally Portu- 
guese, and is worked by German capital, has obtained 
from the Government an enormous tract of country 
stretching to the Zambesi, with rights to cure fish and 
explore mines. Cartridges made in Holland, and an 
iron pier made in Belgium, an extinct trade in soap 
and a failing one in Manchester goods, 1 and gunpowder, 
are all sad items in Mr. Nightingale's lament. Small 
matters in themselves, you may think, but straws show 
which way the wind blows, and it blows against Eng- 
land's trade in every part of Africa not under England's 
flag. It would not, however, be fair to put down to 
differential tariffs alone our failing trade in Angola, be- 

1 The imports in 1896 from England being 978,745 kilos, against 
2,644,455 m 1891— a difference of 1,665,710 kilos against Man- 
chester.- Foreign Office Annual Series, Consular Report, No. 1949. 


cause our successful competitors in hardware and gun- 
powder are other nations who have to face the same 
disadvantages — Germany, Holland, and Belgium. Por- 
tugal herself is now competing with the Manchester 
goods. She does so with well-made stuffs, but she is 
undoubtedly aided by her tariff. The consular report 
(1949) says : " The falling off in Manchester cotton since 
1891 shows a diminution of 1,665,710 kilos. Cotton, if 
coming from Manchester via Lisbon, 1,665,710, duties 
80 per cent, or 250 reis per kilo, equal 333,144 milreis 
(about £51,250) ; cotton coming from Portugal, 1,665,710 
kilos, duties 25 reis per kilo, equal to 41,642 dollars, 750 
reis (about £6,400), showing a difference in the receipts 
for one year of £44,850." 

There is in this statement, I own, a certain obscurity, 
which has probably got into it from the editing of the 
home officials. I do not know if the 1,665,710 kilos, 
representing the difference between what England 
shipped to Angola in 189 1 and what she shipped in 
1896, was supplied in the latter years from Portugal of 
Portuguese manufacture ; but assuming such to have 
been the case, the position from a tariff point of view 
would work out as follows : 1,665,710 kilos of cottons 
from Manchester would pay duty, at 250 reis per kilo, 
416427J milreis. Taking the exchange at 3s. sterling 
per milreis, this amounts to £62,464. If this quantity 
of Manchester-made cottons had gone to Lisbon, and 
there become nationalised, and sent forward to Angola 
in Portuguese steamers, the duty would have been 80 per 
cent, of 250 reis per kilo, or say 333,142 milreis, equal 
to £49,971 ; but if this quantity were manufactured in 
Portugal, and shipped by Portuguese steamers, the duty 
would be 25 reis per kilo, equal to £6,246. The premium 
in favour of Portuguese production on this quantity is 
therefore £56,218, a terrific tax on the Portuguese 
subjects of Angola, for one year, in one class of manu- 
factures only. 

The deductions, however, that Mr. Nightingale draws 
from his figures in regard to Portugal and her province 
are quite clear. He says, " There is no doubt that the 

[ To face page 246- 

Trading Stokes. 


province of Angola is a very rich one. No advantages 
are held out for merchants to establish here, and thus 
bring capital into the place, which means more business, 
the opening up of roads, and the development of indus- 
tries and agriculture. Generally the colony exists for 
the benefit of a few manufacturers in Portugal, who 
reap all the profit." Again, he says, " The merchants 
are much too highly taxed, a good fourth part of their 
capital is paid out in duties, with no certainty when 
it will be realised again. Angola, with plenty of capital, 
moderate taxes and low duties, might in a few years 
become a most flourishing colony." 

Now here we come to the general problem of the 
fiscal arrangements suitable for an African colony ; and 
as this is a subject of great importance to England in 
the administration of her colonies, and errors committed 
in it are serious errors, as demonstrated by the late war 
in Sierra Leone — the most serious even we have had 
for many years to deal with in West Africa — I must 
beg to be allowed to become diffuse, humbly stating 
that I do not wish to dogmatise on the matter, but 
merely to attract the attention of busy practical men to 
the question of the proper system to employ in the 
administration of tropical possessions. This seems to 
me a most important affair to England, now that she 
has taken up great territories and the responsibilities 
appertaining to them in that great tropical continent, 
Africa. There are other parts of the world where 
the suitability of the system of government to the 
conditions of the governed country is not so im- 

It seems to me that the deeper down from the sur- 
face we can go the greater is our chance of understanding 
any matter ; and I humbly ask you to make a dive and 
consider what reason European nations have for inter- 
fering with Africa at all. There are two distinct classes 
of reasons that justify one race of human beings inter- 
fering with another race. These classes are pretty nearly 
inextricably mixed ; but if, like Mark Twain's horse and 
myself, you will lean against a wall and think, I fancy 


you will see that primarily two classes of reasons exist 
— (a), the religious reason, the rescue of souls — a reason 
that is a duty to the religious man as keen as the 
rescue of a drowning man is to a brave one ; (6), pressure 
reasons. These pressure reasons are divisible into two 
sub-classes — (i) external; (2) internal. Now of external 
pressure reasons primarily we have none in Africa. The 
African hive has so far only swarmed on its own con- 
tinent ; it has not sent off swarms to settle down in the 
middle of Civilisation, and terrify, inconvenience, and 
sting it in a way that would justify Civilisation not only 
in destroying the invading swarm, but in hunting up 
the original hive and smoking it out to prevent a recur- 
rence of the nuisance, as the Roman Empire was bound 
to try and do with its Barbarians. Such being the 
case, 1 we can leave this first pressure reason — the war 
justification — for interfering with the African — on one 
side, and turn to the other reason — the internal pressure 
reasons acting from within on the European nations. 
These are roughly divisible into three subclasses: — (1) 
the necessity of supplying restless and ambitious spirits 
with a field for enterprise during such times as they are 
not wanted for the defence of their nation in Europe 
— France's reason for acquiring Africa ; (2) population 
pressure ; (3) commercial pressure. The two latter have 
been the chief reason for the Teutonic nations, England 
and Germany overrunning the lands of other men. This 
Teutonic race is a strong one, with the habit, when in 
the least encouraged by Peace and Prosperity, of pro- 
ducing more men to the acre than the acre can keep. 
Being among themselves a kindly, common-sense race, 
it seems to them more reasonable to go and get more 
acres elsewhere than to kill themselves off down to a 
level which their own acres could support. The essential 
point about the " elsewhere " is that it should have a 
climate suited to the family. These migrations to other 

1 In saying this I am aware of the conduct of Carthage and of 
the Barbary Moors. But neither of these were primarily African. 
The one was instigated by Greece, the other by the Vandals and 
the Arabs. 


countries made under the pressure of population usually 
take place along the line of least resistance, namely, into 
countries where the resident population is least able to 
resist the invasion, as in America and Australia ; but 
occasionally, as in the case of Canada and the Cape, they 
follow the conquest of an European rival who was the 
pioneer in rescuing the country from savagery. 

I am aware that this hardly bears out my statement 
that the Teutonic races are kindly, but as I have said 
" among themselves," we will leave it ; and to other 
people, the original inhabitants of the countries they 
overflow, they are on the whole as kindly as you can 
expect family men to be. A distinguished Frenchman 
has stated that the father of a family is capable of any- 
thing ; and it certainly looks as if he thought no more 
of stamping out the native than of stamping out any 
other kind of vermin that the country possessed to the 
detriment of his wife and children. I do not feel called 
upon to judge him and condemn, for no doubt the father 
of a family has his feelings ; and as it must have been 
irritating to an ancestor of modern America to come 
home from an afternoon's fishing and find merely the 
remains of his homestead and bits of his family, it was 
more natural for him to go for the murderers than strive 
to start an Aborigines' Protection Society. Though 
why, caring for wife and child so much as he does, the 
Teuton should have gone and planted them, for ex- 
ample, in places reeking with Red Indians is a mystery 
to me. I am inclined to accept my French friend's 
explanation on this point, namely, that it arose from 
the Teuton being a little thick in the head and incapable 
of considering other factors beyond climate. But this 
may be merely thickness in my own head — a hopelessly 
Teutonic one. 

However, the occupation of territory from population 
pressure in Europe we need not consider here ; for it is 
not this reason that has led Europe to take an active 
interest in tropical Africa. It is a reason that comes 
into African affairs only — if really at all — in the extreme 
north and extreme south of the continent — Algeria and 


the Cape. The vast regions of Africa from 30 N. to 20 
S., have long been known not to possess a climate 
suitable for colonising in. " Men's blood rapidly putrefies 
under the tropic zone." " Tropical conditions favour the 
growth of pathogenic bacteria " — a rose called by another 
name. Anyhow, not the sort of country attractive to 
the father of a family to found a home in. Yet, as in 
spite of this, European nations are possessing themselves 
of this country with as much ardour as if it were a health 
resort and a gold mine in one, it is plain they must have 
another reason, and this reason is in the case of Germany 
and England primarily commercial pressure. 

These two Teutonic nations have the same habit in 
their commercial production thattheyhave in their human 
production — the habit of overdoing it for their own 
country ; and just as Lancashire, for example, turns out 
more human beings than can comfortably exist there, so 
does she turn out more manufactured articles than can 
be consumed there ; and just as the surplus population 
created by a strong race must find other lands to live 
in, so must the surplus manufactures of a strong race 
find other markets ; both forms of surplus are to a 
strong race wealth. 

The main difference between these things is that the 
surplus manufactured article is in no need of consider- 
ing climate in the matter of its expansion. It stands 
in a relation to the man who goes out into the world with 
it akin to that of the wife and family to the colonist ; 
the trader will no more meekly stand having his trade 
damaged than the colonist will stand having his family 
damaged ; but at the same time, the mere fact that the 
climate destroys trade-stuff is, well, all the better for 
trade, and trade, moreover, leads the trader to view the 
native population from a different standpoint to that of 
the colonist. To that family man the native is a nuisance, 
sometimes a dangerous one, at the best an indifferent 
servant, who does not do his work half so well as in a 
decent climate he can do it himself. To the trader the 
native is quite a different thing, a customer. A dense 
native population is what the trader wants ; and on their 


wealth, prosperity, peace and industry, the success of his 
endeavours depends. 

Now it seems to me that there are in this world two 
classes of regions attractive to the great European 
manufacturing nations, England and Germany, wherein 
they can foster and expand their surplus production of 
manufactured articles. (1) Such regions as India and 
China. (2) Such regions as Africa. The necessity of 
making this division comes from the difference between 
the native populations. In the first case you are dealing 
with a people who are manufacturers themselves, and 
you are selling your goods mainly against gold. In the 
second the people are not manufacturers themselves 
except in a very small degree, and you are selling your 
goods against raw material. In a bustling age like this 
there seems to be a tendency here and in Germany to 
value the first form of market above the second. I fail 
to see that this is a sound valuation. The education 
our commerce gives will in a comparatively short time 
transform the people of the first class of markets into 
rival producers of manufactured articles wherewith to 
supply the world's markets. We by our pacification of 
India have already made India a greater exporter than 
she was before our rule there. If China is opened up, 
things will be even worse for England and Germany ; 
for the Chinese, with their great power of production, 
will produce manufactured articles which will fairly 
swamp the world's markets ; for, sad to say, there is 
little doubt but they can take out of our hands all 
textile trade, and probably several other lines of trade 
that England, Germany, and America now hold. India 
and China being populated, the one by a set of people 
at sixes and sevens with each other, and the other by a 
set of people who, to put it mildly, are not born warriors, 
cannot, except under the dominion and protection of a 
powerful European nation, commercially prosper. But 
England and Germany are not everybody. There is 
France. I could quite imagine France, for example, in 
possession of China, managing it on similar lines to those 
on which she is now managing West Africa, but with 


enormously different results to herself and the rest of 
the world. Her system of differential tariffs, be it 
granted, keeps her African possessions poor, and involves 
her in heavy imperial expenditure ; but the Chinaman's 
industry would support the French system, and thrive 
under her jealous championship. This being the case, 
it is of value to England and Germany to hold as close 
a grip as possible over such regions as India and China, 
even though by so doing they are nourishing vipers in 
their commercial bosoms. 

The case of the second class of markets — the tropical 
African — is different. Such markets are of enormous 
value to us ; they are, especially the West African ones, 
regions of great natural riches in rubber, oil, timber, 
ivory, and minerals from gold to coal. They are in most 
places densely populated with customers for England's 
manufactured goods. The advantages of such a region 
to a manufacturing nation like ourselves are enormous ; 
for not only do we get rid there of our manufactured 
goods, but we get, what is of equal value to our manu- 
facturing classes, raw material at a cheap enough rate 
to enable the English manufacturers to turn out into the 
markets of the civilised world articles sufficiently cheap 
themselves to compete with those of other manufacturing 

The importance to us of such markets as Africa 
affords us seems to me to give us one sufficient reason 
for taking over these tropical African regions. I do not 
use the word justification in the matter, it is a word 
one has no right to use until we have demonstrated that 
our interference with the native population and our en- 
deavours for our own population have ended in unmixed 
good ; but it is a sound reason, as good a reason as 
we had in overrunning Australia and America. Indeed, 
I venture to think it is a better one, for the possession 
of a great market enables thousands of men, women and 
children to live in comfort and safety in England, in- 
stead of going away from home and all that home 
means ; and this commercial reason — for all its not 
having a high falutin sound in it — is the one and only 

In an Angola Market. 

[To face page 252. 
A Man of Sout.i Angola. 


expansion reason we have that in itself desires the 
national peace and prosperity of the native races with 
whom it deals. 

It seems to me no disgrace to England that her 
traders are the expanding force for her in Africa. There 
are three classes of men who are powers to a State — 
the soldier, the trader, and the scientist. Their efforts, 
when co-ordinated and directed by the true statesman — 
the religious man in the guise of philosopher and poet 
— make a great State. Being English, of course modesty 
prevents my saying that England is a great State. I 
content myself by saying that she is a truly great people, 
and will become a great State when she is led by a line 
of great statesmen — statesmen who are not only cap- 
able, as indeed most of our statesmen have been, of 
seeing the importance of India and the colonies, but 
also capable of seeing the equal importance to us of 

England's democracy must learn the true value of 
the markets that our fellow-countrymen have so long 
been striving to give her, and must appreciate the heroism 
those men have displayed, only too often unrequited, 
never half appreciated by the sea-wife, who " breeds a 
breed of rovin' men and casts them over sea." Those 
who go to make new homes for the old country in 
Australia and America do not feel her want of interest 
keenly ; but those heroes of commerce who go to fight 
and die in fever-stricken lands for the sake of the old 
homes at home, do feel her want of interest. 

I am not speaking hastily, nor have I only West 
Africa in my mind in this matter ; there are other regions 
where we could have succeeded better, with advantage 
to all concerned — Malaya, British Guiana, New Guinea, 
the West Indies, as well as West Africa. If you examine 
the matter I think you will see that all these regions we 
have failed in are possessed of unhealthy climates, while 
the regions we have succeeded with are those possessed 
of healthy climates. The reason for this difference in 
our success seems to me to lie mainly in our deficiency 
of statesmanship at home. We really want the humid 


tropic zone more than other nations do ; a climate that 
eats up steel and hardware as a rabbit eats lettuces is an 
excellent customer to a hardware manufacturing town, 
&c. A region densely populated by native populations 
willing to give raw trade stuffs in exchange for cotton 
goods, which they bury or bang out on stones in the 
course of washing or otherwise actively help their local 
climate to consume, is invaluable to a textile manufac- 
turing town. Yet it would be idle to pretend that our 
Government has realised these things. Our superior 
ability as manufacturers, and the great enterprise of our 
men who have gone out to conquer the markets of the 
tropics, have given us all the advantages we now enjoy 
from those markets, but they could do no more ; and 
now, when we are confronted by the expansion of other 
European nations, those men and their work are being 
lost to England. Our fellow-countrymen will go any- 
where and win anywhere to-day just as well as yester- 
day, where the climate of the region allows England to 
throw enough of them in at a time to hold it independ- 
ent of the home government ; but in places where we 
cannot do this, in the unhealthy tropical regions where 
those men want backing up against the aggression on 
their interests of foreign governments, well, up to the 
present they have not had that backing up, and hence we 
have lost to England in England the advantages we so 
easily might have secured. 

An American magazine the other day announced in 
a shocked way that I could evidently "swear like a 
trooper ! " I cannot think where it got the idea from ; 
but really! — well of course I don't naturally wish to, 
but I cannot help feeling that if I could it would be 
a comfort to me ; for when I am up in the great manu- 
facturing towns, England properly so called, their looms 
and forges seem to me to sing the same song to the 
great maker of Fate — we must prosper or England dies. 
And there is but one thing they can prosper on — for 
there is but one feeding ground for them and all the 
thousands of English men, women and children depend- 
ent on them — the open market of the World. To me 


the life blood of England is her trade. Her soul, her 
brain is made of other things, but they should not neglect 
or spurn the thing that feeds them — Commerce — any 
more than they should undervalue the thing that guards 
them — the warrior. 

But, you will say, we will not be tied down to this 
commercial reason as England's reason for taking over 
the administration of tropical Africa. My friend, I really 
think on the whole you had better — it's reasonable. I 
grant that it has not been the reason why English mis- 
sionaries and travellers have risked their lives for the 
good of Africa, or of human knowledge, but as a ground 
from which to develop a policy of administering the 
country this commercial one is good, because it requires 
as aforesaid the prosperity of the African population ; 
and your laudable vanities in the matter I cannot re- 
spect, when I observe right in the middle of the map 
of Africa an enormous region called the Congo Free 
State. I have reason to believe that that region was 
opened up by Englishmen — Livingstone, Stanley, Speke, 
Grant and Burton. If you had been so truly keen on 
suppressing Arab slavery and native cannibalism, there 
was a paradise for you ! Yet, you hand it over to some 
one else. Was it because you thought some one else 
could do it better ? or — but we will leave that affair and 
turn to the consideration of the possibility of administer- 
ing tropical Africa, govern mentally, to the benefit of all 



Wherein it is set down briefly why it is necessary to enter upon this 
discussion at all. 

Now, you will say, Wherefore should the general 
public in England interest itself in this matter ? Surely 
things are now governmentally administered in England's 
West African Colonies for the benefit of all parties 

Well, that is just exactly and precisely what they are 
not. The system of Crown Colonies, when it is worked 
by Portuguese, does, at any rate, benefit some of the 
officials; but English officials are incapable of availing 
themselves of the opportunities this system offers them ; 
and therefore, as this form of opportunity is the only 
benefit the thing can give any one, the sooner the Crown 
Colony system is removed from the sphere of practical 
politics and put under a glass case in the South Ken- 
sington Museum, labelled " Extinct," the better for every 

I beg you, before we go further in this matter, to 
look round the world calmly, and then, when you have 
allowed the natural burst of enthusiasm concerning the 
extent and the magnificence of the British Empire to 
pass, you will observe that in the more unhealthy regions 
England has failed. I say she has failed because of the 
Crown Colony system — failed with them even during 


days wherein she has had to face nothing like what she 
has to face to-day from the commercial competition of 
other nations. 

In order to justify myself for holding the view that it 
is possible for any system of English administration to 
fail anywhere, I would draw your attention to the fact that 
the system used by us for governing unhealthy regions 
is the Crown Colony system. The two things go 
together, and we must assign one of them as the reason 
of our failure. You may, if it please you, put it down 
to the other thing, the unhealthiness. I cannot, for 1 
know that no race of men can battle more gallantly 
with climate than the English — no other race of men 
has shown so great a capacity as we have to make the 
tropics pay. Still to-day we stand face to face with 
financial disaster in tropical regions. 

If you will look through a list of England's tropical 
unhealthy possessions, leaving out West Africa, you 
will see nothing but depression. There are the West 
Indies, British Guiana, and British Honduras. All of 
these are naturally rich regions and accessible to the 
markets of the world. There is not one of them hemmed 
in by great mountain chains or surrounded by arid 
deserts, across which their products must be transported 
at enormous cost. They are all on our highway — the 
sea ; nor are they sparsely populated. Their population, 
according to the latest Government returns, is 1,653,832, 
and this estimate is acknowledged to be necessarily im- 
perfect and insufficient. But with all these advantages 
we find no prosperity there under our rule. Nothing 
but poverty and discontent and now pauperisation in the 
shape of grants from the Imperial Exchequer. You 
say, " Oh ! but that is on account of the sugar bounties 
and the majority of the population not being English;" 
but that argument won't do. Look at the Canary 
Islands. They were just as hard hit by aniline dyes 
supplanting cochineal. Their population is not mainly 
English; but down on those islands came an English- 
man, the Spanish Government had the sense to let him 
have his way, and that Englishman, Mr. A. L. Jones, of 



Liverpool, has, in a space of only fifteen years, made 
those islands a source of wealth to Spain, instead of 
paupers on an Imperial bounty. "But," you say, "we 
have other regions under the Crown Colony system 
that are not West Indian." Granted, but look at them. 
There are the West African group ; a group of three in 
the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus, two 
fortifications and a failure ; away out East another group, 
which are prosperous from the fact that they are sur- 
rounded by countries whose fiscal arrangements are pro- 
videntially worse than their own, and this seems to be the 
only condition which can keep a Crown Colony on its 
financial legs at all. For all our Crown Colonies adja- 
cent to countries who can compete with them in trade 
matters are paupers, or their efficiency and value to the 
Empire is in the sphere of military and naval affairs, as 
posts and coaling stations. These possessions of the 
Gibraltar, Malta, and Hong Kong brand should be re- 
garded as being part of our navy and army, and not 
confused with colonies, though essential to them. 

"Still," you say, "you are forgetting Ceylon, the Fiji 
Islands, the Falklands, and the Mauritius." I am not. 
Ceylon is part of India and practically an Indian pro- 
vince, so is out of my arguments. I present you with 
the others wherefrom to build up a defence of the Crown 
Colony system. Say, " See the Falklands off Cape Horn, 
with a population of 1,789, and heaps of sheep and a 
satisfactory budget." I can say nothing against them, 
and may possibly be forced to admit that for such a 
region, off Cape Horn, and with a population mainly 
of sheep, the Crown Colony system may be a Heaven- 
sent form of administration. But I think England 
would be wiser if she looked carefully at the West 
Indian group and recognised how like their conditions 
are to those of the West African group, for in their 
disastrous state of financial affairs you have an object 
lesson teaching what will be the fate of Crown Colonies 
in West Africa — Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast 
and Lagos — if she will not be warned in time to alter 
the system at present employed for governing these 


possessions. It is an object lesson in miniature of what 
will otherwise be an infinitely greater drain on the re- 
sources of England, for West Africa is immensely larger, 
immensely more densely populated, and immensely more 
deadly in climate than the West Indies. For one 
Englishman killed by the West Indies, West Africa will 
want ten ; for every £1,000, £20,000 — and all for what? 
Only for the sake of a system — a system intrinsically 
alien to all English ideals of government — a system that 
doddered along until Mr. Chamberlain expected it to 
work and then burst out all over in rows, and was found 
to be costing some 25 per cent, of the entire bulk of 
white trade with West Africa ; a system that, let the 
land itself be ever so rich, can lead to nothing but 
heart-breaking failure. 

Now I own the Crown Colony system looks well on 
paper. It consists of a Governor, appointed by the 
Colonial Office, supported by an Executive and Legis- 
lative Council (both nominated), and on the Gold Coast 
with two unofficial members in the legislative body. 
These Councils, as far as the influence they have, are 
dead letters, and legislation is in the hands of the 
Governor. This is no evil in itself. You will get 
nothing done in tropical Africa except under the in- 
fluence of individual men ; but your West African 
Governor, though not controlled by the Councils with- 
in the colony, is controlled by a power outside the 
colony, namely, the Colonial Office in London. Up 
to our own day the Colonial Office has been, except 
in the details of domestic colonial affairs, a drag-chain 
on English development in Western Africa. It has not 
even been indifferent, but distinctly, deliberately adverse. 
In the year 1865 a Select Committee of the House of 
Commons inquired into and reported upon the state 
of British establishments on the western coast of Africa. 
"It was a strong Committee, and the report was brief 
and decided. Recognising that it is not possible to 
withdraw the British Government wholly or immedi- 
ately from any settlements or engagements on the 
West African Coast, the Committee laid down that all 

S 2 


further extension of territory or assumption of govern- 
ment, or new treaties offering any protection to native 
tribes, would be inexpedient, and that the object of our 
policy should be to encourage in the natives the exer- 
cise of those qualities which may render it possible 
for us more and more to transfer to them the adminis- 
tration of all the governments with a view to the 
ultimate withdrawal from all, except, perhaps, Sierra 
Leone." 1 

Remember also this. This one in 1865 was not the 
first of those sort of fits the Colonial Office had in West 
African affairs. It was just as bad after the Battle of 
Katamansu in 1827, and had it not been for the English 
traders our honour to the natives we had made treaties 
with would have been destroyed, and the Gold Coast 
lost whole and entire. 

This policy of 1865 has remained the policy of the 
English Government towards West Africa up to 1894. 
In spite of it, the English have held on. Governor 
after Governor, who, as soon as he became acquainted 
with the nature of the region, has striven to rouse 
official apathy, has been held in, and his spirit of 
enterprise broken by official snubs, and has been taught 
that keeping quiet was what he was required to do. It 
broke many a man's heart to do it ; but doing it worked 
no active evil on the colony under his control, the affairs 
of which financially prospered in the hands of the 
trading community so well, that not only had no West 
African colony any public debt, except Sierra Leone, 
which was a philanthropic station, but the Gold Coast, 
for example, had sufficient surplus to lend money to 
colonies in other parts of the world. But at last the 
time came when the aggression on Africa by the Conti- 
nental powers fulfilled all the gloomy prophecies which 
the merchants of Liverpool had long been uttering 
and one possession of ours in West Africa after another 
felt the effects of the activity of other nations and the 
apathy of our own. They would have felt it in vain ? 

1 See Lucas's Historical Geography of the British Colonies. 
Oxford, 1894. 


and have utterly succumbed to it, had it not been for 
two Englishmen. Sir George Taubman-Goldie, who, 
when in West Africa on a voyage of exploration, re- 
cognised the possibilities of the Niger regions, and 
secured them for England in the face of great difficulties ; 
and Mr. Chamberlain. Concerning Sir George Goldie's 
efforts in securing a most important section of West 
Africa for England, I shall have occasion to speak 
later. Concerning Mr. Chamberlain, I may as well 
speak now ; but be it understood, both these men, 
whatever their own ideas on their work may be, were 
men who came up at a critical point to reinforce Liver- 
pool and Bristol and London merchants, who had 
fought for centuries — not to put too fine a point on it 
— from the days of Edward IV. for the richest feeding 
grounds in all the world for England's manufacturing 
millions. The dissensions, distrust and misunderstand- 
ings which have raged among these three representatives 
of England's majesty and power, are no affair of mine, 
as a mere general student of the whole affair, beyond 
the due allowance one must make for the grave mischief 
worked by the human factors. Well, as aforesaid, Mr. 
Chamberlain alone of all our statesmen saw the great 
possibilities and importance of Western Africa, and 
thinking to realise them, forthwith inaugurated a policy 
which, if it had had sound ground to go on, would have 
succeeded. It had not, it had the Crown Colony 
system — and our hope for West Africa is that so 
powerful a man as he has shown himself to be in other 
political fields, may show himself to be yet more 
powerful, and formulate a totally new system suited 
for the conditions of West Africa, and not content 
himself with the old fallacy of ascribing failure to the 
individuals, white or black, government official or mer- 
chant or missionary, who act under the system which 
alone is to blame for England's present position in 
West Africa ; but I own that if Mr. Chamberlain does 
this he will be greater than one man can ever be reason- 
ably be expected to be, and again it is, I fear, not possible 
to undo what has been done by the resolution of 1865. 


Possibly the greatest evil worked by this resolution 
has been the alienation of sympathy between the Mer- 
chants and the Government. Since 1865 these two English 
factors have been working really against each other. 
Possibly the greatest touch of irony in modern politics is 
to be found in a despatch dated March 30th, 1892, 
addressed to the British Ambassador at Paris, wherein it 
is said, " The colonial policy of Great Britain and France 
in West Africa has been widely different. France from 
her basis on the Senegal coast has pursued steadily the 
aim of establishing herself on the Upper Niger and its 
affluents ; this object she has attained by a large and 
constant expenditure, and by a succession of military 
expeditions. Great Britain, on the other hand, has 
adopted the policy of advance by commercial enterprise ; 
she has not attempted to compete with the military 
operations of her neighbour." x I should rather think she 
hadn't ! Let alone the fact that France did not expand 
mainly by military operations, but through magnificent 
explorers backed up by sound sense. While, as for 
Great Britain " adopting the policy of advance by 
commercial enterprise " — well, I don't know what the 
writer of that despatch's ideas on " adoption " are, but 
suppression would be the truer word. Had Great Britain 
given even her countenance to " commercial enterprise," 
she would by now have given it representation in her 
councils for West Africa, a thing it has not yet got. 
True, there is the machinery for this representation ready 
in the Chambers of Commerce, but these Chambers have 
no real power whatsoever as far as West African affairs 
are concerned ; they are graciously permitted to send 
deputations to the Colonial Office and write letters when 
they feel so disposed, but practically that is all. 

Truly it is a ridiculous situation, because West Africa 
matters to no party in England so much as it matters to 
the mercantile. I am aware I shall be told that it is 
impossible that one section of Englishmen can have 
a greater interest in any part of the Empire than an- 
other section, and, for example, that West Africa 
1 Parliamentary Paper, C 6701, 92. 


matters quite as much to the religious party as it does 
to the mercantile. But, to my mind, neither Religion 
nor Science is truly concerned in the political aspect 
of West Africa. It should not matter, for example, 
to the missionary whether he works under one European 
Government or another, or a purely native Government, 
so long as he is allowed by that Government to carry 
on his work of evangelisation unhindered ; nor, simi- 
larly, does it matter to the scientific man, so long as 
he is allowed to carry on his work ; but to the mer- 
chant it matters profoundly whether West Africa is 
under English or foreign rule, and whether our rule there 
is well ordered. For one thing, on the merchants of 
West Africa falls entirely the duty of supplying the 
revenue which supports the government of our colonies 
there ; and for another, it seems to me that, whether the 
Government he is under is English or no, does matter 
very much to the English merchant. His duty as 
an Englishman is the support of the population of 
his own country, especially the support of its manu- 
facturing classes. Everything that tends to alienate 
his influence from the service of his fellow-countrymen 
is a degradation to him. He may be individually as 
successful in trading with foreign-made goods, but as a 
member of the English State he is at a lower level 
when he does so ; he becomes a mere mercenary in 
the service of a foreign power engaged in adding to 
the prosperity of an alien nation. Again, in this matter 
the difference between the religious man and the com- 
mercial shows up clearly. Let the religion of the 
missionary be what it may, his aim is according to it 
to secure the salvation of the human race. What does 
it matter to him whether the section of the human race 
he strives to save be black, white, or yellow ? Nothing ; 
as the noble records of missions will show you. There- 
fore I repeat that West Africa matters to no party in 
the English State so much as it matters to the mer- 
cantile. With no other party are true English interests 
so closely bound up. 

West Africa probably will never be a pleasant place 


wherein to spend the winter months, a holiday ground 
that will serve to recuperate the jaded energies of our 
poets and painters, like the Alps or Italy ; probably, 
likewise, it will never be a place where we can ship our 
overflow population ; and for the same reason — its 
unhealthiness — it will be of no use to us as a military 
academy, for troops are none the better for soaking in 
malaria and operating against ill-armed antagonists. 
But West Africa is of immense use to us as a feeding- 
ground for our manufacturing classes. It could be of 
as much value to England as a healthy colony, but in a 
reverse way, for it could supply the wealth which would 
enable them to remain in England in place of leaving it, 
if it were properly managed with this definite end in 
view. It is idle to imagine that it can be properly 
managed unless commercial experts are represented in 
the Government which controls its administration, as is 
not the case at present. It is no case of abusing the 
men who at present strive to do their best with it. 
They do not set themselves up as knowing much about 
trade, and they constantly demonstrate that they do not. 
Armed with absolutely no definite policy, subsisting on 
official and non-expert trade opinion, they drift along, 
with some nebulous sort of notion in their heads about 
" elevating the African in the plane of civilisation." 

Now, of course, there exists a passable reason for 
things being as they are in our administration of West 
Africa. England is never malign in intention, and 
never rushes headlong into a line of policy. Therefore, 
in order to comprehend how it has come about that she 
should have a system so unsuited to the regions to 
which it is applied, as the Crown Colony system is 
unsuited to West Africa, we must calmly investigate 
the reason that underlies this affair. This reason, which 
is the cause of all the trouble, is a misconception of the 
nature of W^est Africa, and it must be considered under 
two heads. 

The thing behind the resolution of 1865 is the un- 
doubted fact that West Africa is no good for a Colony 
from its unhealthiness. There is no one who knows 


the Coast but will grant this ; but surely there is no 
one who knows, not only the West Coast of Africa but 
also the necessities of our working classes in England, 
who can fail to recognise that this is only half an 
argument against England holding West Africa ; because 
we want something besides regions whereto we can 
send away from England men and women, namely, we 
want regions that will enable us to keep the very 
backbone of England, our manufacturing classes, in a 
state of healthy comfort and prosperity at home in 
England, in other words, we want markets. 

Alas! in England the necessity for things grows up 
in a dumb way, though providentially it is irresistibly 
powerful ; once aroused it forces our statesmen to find 
the required thing, which they with but bad grace and 
grievous groans proceed leisurely to do. 

This is pretty much the same as saying that the 
English are deficient in statesmanship, and this is what 
I mean, and I am convinced that no other nation but 
our own could have prospered with so much of this 
imperfection ; but remember it is an imperfection, and 
is not a thing to be proud of any more than a stammer. 
External conditions have enabled England so far barely 
to feel her drawback, but now external conditions are in 
a different phase, and she must choose between acquiring 
statesmanship competent to cope with this phase, or 
drift on in her present way until the force of her 
necessities projects her into an European war. A 
perfectly unnecessary conclusion to the pressure of 
commercial competition she is beginning to feel, but 
none the less inevitable with her present lack of 

The second part of the reason of England's trouble in 
West Africa is that other fallacious half reason which 
our statesmen have for years been using to soothe the 
minds of those who urged on her in good time the 
necessity for acquiring the hinterlands of West Africa, 
namely, " After all, England holds the key of them in 
holding the outlets of the rivers." And while our 
statesmen have been saying this, France has been 


industriously changing the lock on the door by diverting 
trade routes from the hinterland she has so gallantly 
acquired, down into those seaboard districts which she 

" Well, well, well," you will say, " we have woke up at 
last, we can be trusted now." I own I do not see why 
you should expect to be suddenly trusted by the men 
with whose interests you have played so long. I 
remember hearing about a missionary gentleman who 
was told a long story by the father of a bad son, who 
for years went gallivanting about West Africa, bringing 
the family into disrepute, and running up debts in all 
directions, and finally returned to the paternal roof. 
" Dear me ! how interesting," said the missionary ; " quite 
the Parable of the Prodigal Son ! I trust, my friend, 
you remembered it, and killed the fatted calf on his 
return ? " " No, Sar," said the parent ; " but I dam near 
kill that ar prodigal son." 



Wherein is set down briefly in what manner of ways the Crown 
Colony system works evil in Western Africa. 

I have attempted to state that the Crown Colony 
system is unsuited for governing Western Africa, and have 
attributed its malign influence to its being a system 
which primarily expresses the opinions of well-intentioned 
but ill-informed officials at home, instead of being, ac- 
cording to the usual English type of institution, repre- 
sentative of the interests of the people who are 
governed, and of those who have the largest stake 
in the countries controlled by it — the merchants 
and manufacturing classes of England. It remains to 
point out how it acts adversely to the prosperity of all 
concerned ; for be it clearly understood there is no cor- 
ruption in it whatsoever : there is waste of men's lives, 
moneys, and careers, but nothing more at present. By 
and by it will add to its other charms and functions 
that of being, in the early future, a sort of patent and 
successful incubator for hatching a fine lively brood of 
little Englanders, who will cry out, " What is the good 
of West Africa ? " and so forth ; and they will seem 
sweetly reasonable, because by then West Africa will be 
down on the English rates, a pauper. 

It may seem inconceivable, however, that the present 
governing body of West Africa, the home officials, and 
the English public as represented in Parliament, can be 
ill-informed. West Africa has not been just shot up out 


of the ocean by a submarine volcanic explosion ; nor 
are we landing on it out of Noah's ark, for the thing has 
been in touch with Europe since the fifteenth century ; 
yet, inconceivable as it may seem that there is not by 
now formulated and in working order a method of gov- 
erning it suitable for its nature, the fact that this is so 
remains, and providentially for us it is quite easy of ex- 
planation without abusing any one ; though no humane 
person, like myself for example, can avoid sincerely 
hoping that Mr. Kipling is wrong when he sings 

" Deep in all dishonour have we stained our garments' hem. 
Yet be ye not dismayed, we have stumbled and have strayed. 
Our leaders went from righteousness, the Lord will deal with them." 

For although it is true that we have made a mess of this 
great feeding ground for England's manufacturing 
millions ; yet there are no leaders on whom blame alone 
can fall, whom we can make scapegoats out of, who can 
be driven away into the wilderness carrying the sins of 
the people. The blame lies among all those classes of 
people who have had personally to deal with West 
Africa and the present system ; and the Crown Colony 
system and the resolution of '65 are merely the necessary 
fungi of rotten stuff, for they have arisen from the in- 
formation that has been, and has not been, placed at the dis- 
posal of our Government in England by the Government 
officials of West Africa, the Missionaries, and the Traders. 
We will take the traders' blame first — their contribution 
to the evil dates from about 1827, and consists in omis- 
sion — frankly, I think that they, in their generation, were 
justified in not telling all they could tell about the Coast. 
They found they could get on with it, keep it quiet and 
manage the natives fairly well under the system of Courts 
of Equity in the Rivers, and the Committee of merchants 
with a Governor approved of by the Home Government, 
which was working on the Gold Coast up to 1843. In 
1 841 there arose the affair of Governor Maclean, and 
the inauguration of the line of policy which resulted in 
the resolution of 1865. The governmental officials 


having cut themselves off from the traders and taken 
over West Africa, failed to manage West Africa, and 
so resolved that West Africa was not worth managing 
— a thing they are bound to do again. 

The abuse showered on the merchants, and the terrific 
snubs with which the Government peppered them, did 
not make the traders blossom and expand, and shower 
information on those who criticised them — there are 
some natures that are not sweetened by Adversity. 
Moreover, the Government, when affairs had been taken 
over by the Offices in London, took the abhorrent form 
of Customs, and displayed a lively love of the mis- 
sionary-made African, as he was then — you can read 
about him in Burton 1 — and for the rest got up rows with 
the traders' best customer, the untutored African; 
rows, as the traders held, unnecessary in their begin- 
ning and feeble-handed in their termination. The whole 
of this sort of thing made the trader section keep all 
the valuable information to itself, and spend its energies 
in eluding the Customs, and talking what Burton terms 
" Commercial English." 

Then we come to the contribution made by the 
Government officials to the formation of an erroneous 
opinion concerning the state of affairs in West Africa. 
This arose from the conditions that surrounded them 
there, and the way in which they were unable, even if 
they desired, to expand their influence, distrusted 
naturally enough by the trading community since 1865, 
held in continuously by their home instructions, and 
unprovided with a sufficient supply of men or money on 
shore to go in for empire making, and also villainously 
badly quartered — as you can see by reading Ellis's 
West African Sketches. It is small wonder and small 
blame to them that their account of West Africa has 
been a gloomy one, and such it must remain until these 
men are under a different system : for all the reasons 
that during the past have caused them to paint the 
Coast as a place of no value to England, remain still in 
full force — as you can see by studying the disadvantages 
1 Wanderings in West Africa, vol. i. 1 863. 


that service in a West African Crown Colony presents 
to-day to a civilian official. 

Firstly, the climate is unhealthy, so that the usual 
make of Englishman does not like to take his wife out 
to the Coast with him. This means keeping two homes, 
which is expensive, and it gives a man no chance of 
saving money on an income say of £600 a year, for the 
official's life in West Africa is necessarily, let him be as 
economical as he may, an expensive one ; and, moreover, 
things are not made more cheerful for him by his 
knowing that if he dies there will be no pension for his 

Secondly, there being no regular West African 
Service, there is no security for promotion ; owing to the 
unhealthiness of the climate it is very properly ordained 
that each officer shall serve a year on the Coast, and then 
go home on a six months' furlough. It is a fairly 
common thing for a man to die before his twelve months' 
term is up, and a still more common one for him to 
have to go on sick leave. Of course, the moment he is 
off, some junior official has to take his place and do his 
work. But in the event of the man whose work he does 
dying, gaining a position in another region, or promotion, 
the man who has been doing the work has no reason to 
hope he will step into the full emoluments and honours 
of the appointment, although experience will thus have 
given him an insight into the work. On the contrary, it 
too often happens that some new man, either fresh from 
London or who has already held a Government appoint- 
ment in some totally different region to the West 
African, is placed in the appointment. If this new man 
is fresh to such work as he has to do, the displaced 
man has to teach him ; if he is from a different region, 
he usually won't be taught, and he does not help to 
develop a spirit of general brotherly love and affection 
in the local governmental circles by the frank statement 
that he considers West African officials "jugginses" 
or " muffs," although he freely offers to " alter this and 
show them how things ought to be done." 

Then again the civilian official frequently complains 


that he has no such recognition given him for his services 
as is given to the military men in West Africa. I have 
so often heard the complaint, " Oh, if a man comes 
here and burns half a dozen villages he gets honours ; 
while I, who keep the villages from wanting burning, 
get nothing ; " and, mind you, this is true. Like the rest 
of my sex I suffer from a chronic form of scarlet fever, 
and, from a knowledge of the country there, I hold it 
rubbish to talk of the brutality of mowing down savages 
with a Maxim gun when it comes to talking of West 
African bush fighting ; for your West African is not an 
unarmed savage, he does not assemble in the manner 
of Dr. Watts's ants, but wisely ensconces himself in the 
pleached arbours of his native land, and lets fly at you 
with a horrid scatter gun. This is bound to hit, and 
when it hits makes wounds worse than those made by 
a Maxim ; in fact he quite turns bush fighting into a 
legitimate sport, let alone the service done him by his 
great ally, the climate. Still, it is hard on the civilian, 
and bad for English interests in West Africa that the 
man who by his judgment, sympathy, and care, keeps a 
district at peace, should have less recognition than one 
who, acting under orders, doing his duty gallantly, and 
all that, goes and breaks up all native prosperity and 
white trade. 

All these things acting together produce on the local 
Government official a fervid desire to get home to 
England, or obtain an appointment in some other 
region than the West Coast. I feel sure I am well within 
the mark when I say that two-thirds of the present 
Government officials in the West African English Crown 
Colonies have their names down on the transfer list, or 
are trying to get them there ; and this sort of thing 
simply cannot give them an enthusiasm for their work 
sufficient to ensure its success, and of course leads to 
their painting a dismal picture of West Africa itself. 

I am perfectly well aware that the conditions of life 
of officials in West Africa are better than those de- 
scribed by Ellis. Nevertheless, they are not yet what 
they should be : a corrugated iron house may cost a 


heap of money and yet not be a Paradise. I am also 
aware that the houses and general supplies given to 
our officials are immensely more luxurious than those 
given to German or French officials ; but this does not 
compensate for the horrors of boredom suffused with 
irritation to which the English official is subjected. 
More than half the quarrelling and discontent for which 
English officials are celebrated, and which are attributed 
to drink and the climate, simply arise from the domestic 
arrangements enforced on them in Coast towns, whereby 
they see far too much of each other. If you take any set 
of men and make them live together, day out and day 
in, without sufficient exercise, without interest in 
outside affairs, without dividing them up into regular 
grades of rank, as men are on board ship or in barracks, 
you are simply bound to have them dividing up into 
cliques that quarrel ; the things they quarrel over may 
seem to an outsider miserably petty, but these quarrels 
are the characteristic eruption of the fever discontent. 
And may I ask you if the opinion of men in such a 
state is an opinion on which a sound policy wherewith 
to deal with so complex a region can be formed ? 
I think not, yet these men and the next class alone are 
the makers of our present policy — the instructors of 
home official opinion. 

The next class is the philanthropic party. It is 
commonly confused with the missionary, but there is 
this fundamental difference between them. The mis- 
sionary, pure and simple, is a man who loves God more 
than he loves himself, or any man. His service (I am 
speaking on fundamental lines, as far as I can see) is to 
place in God's charge, for the glory of God, souls that, 
according to his belief, would otherwise go elsewhere. 
The philanthropist is a person who loves man ; but he or 
she is frequently no better than people who kill lapdogs 
by over- feeding, or who shut up skylarks in cages ; while 
it is quite conceivable to me, for example, that a mis- 
sionary could kill a man to save his soul, a philanthropist 
kills his soul to save his life, and there is in this a differ- 
ence. I have never been able to get up any respectful 


enthusiasm for the so-called philanthropist, so that I 
have to speak of him with calm care ; not as I have 
spoken of the missionary, feeling he was a person I 
could not really harm by criticising his methods. 

It is, however, nowadays hopeless to attempt to 
separate these two species, distinct as I believe them to 
be ; and they together undoubtedly constitute what is 
called the Mission party not only in England but in 
Germany. I believe this alliance has done immense 
harm to the true missionary, for' to it I trace that ten- 
dency to harp upon horrors and general sensationalism 
which so sharply differentiates the modern from the 
classic missionary reports. Take up that noble story 
of Dennis de Carli and Michael Angelo of Gattina, and 
read it through, and then turn on to wise, clear-headed 
Merolla da Sorrento, and read him ; you find there 
no sensationalism. Now and again, when deeply tried, 
they will say, " These people live after a beastly manner, 
and converse freely with the Devil," but you soon 
find them saying, " Among these people there are some 
excellent customs," and they give you full details of 
them, with evident satisfaction. You see it did not 
fundamentally matter to these early missionaries whether 
their prospective converts " had excellent customs " or 
" lived after a beastly manner," from a religious stand- 
point. Not one atom — they were the sort of men who 
would have gone for Plato, Socrates, and all the Classics 
gaily, holding that they were not Christians as they 
ought to be ; but this never caused them to paint a 
distorted portrait of the African. This thing, I believe, 
the modern philanthropist has induced the modern 
missionary only too frequently to do, and the other 
regrettable element which has induced him to do it has 
been the apathy of the English public, a public which 
unless it were stirred up by horrors would not subscribe. 
Again the blame is with England at home, but the harm 
done is paid for in West Africa. The portrait painted 
of the African by the majority, not all, but the majority 
of West African mission reports, has been that of a 
child, naturally innocent, led away and cheated by white 



traders and grievously oppressed by his own rulers. I 
grant you, the African taken as a whole is the gentlest 
kind of real human being that is made. I do not how- 
ever class him with races who carry gentleness to a 
morbid extent, and for governmental purposes you 
must not with any race rely on their main characteristic 
alone ; for example, Englishmen are honest, yet still we 
require the police force. 

The evil worked by what we must call the mission- 
ary party is almost incalculable ; from it has arisen the 
estrangement of English interests, as represented by our 
reason for adding West Africa to our Empire at all — the 
trader — and the English Government as represented by 
the Crown Colony system ; and it has also led to our 
present policy of destroying powerful native States and 
the power of the African ruling classes at large. 
Secondarily it is the cause of our wars in West Africa. 
That this has not been and is not the desire of the mission 
party it is needless to say ; that the blame is directly due • 
to the Crown Colony system it is as needless to remark ; 
for any reasonable system of its age would long ere now 
have known the African at first hand, not as it knows 
him, and knows him only, at its head-quarters, London, 
from second-hand vitiated reports. It has, nowadays, 
at its service the common sense and humane opinions 
of the English trade lords as represented by the 
Chambers of Commerce of Liverpool and Manchester ; 
but though just at present it listens to what they say — 
thanks to Mr. Chamberlain — yet it cannot act on their 
statements, but only querulously says, "Your information 
does not agree with our information." Allah forbid that 
the information of the party with whom I have had the 
honour to be classed should agree with that sort of in- 
formation from other sources ; and I would naturally 
desire the rulers of West Africa to recognise the benefit 
they now enjoy of having information of a brand that 
has not led to such a thing as the Sierra Leone 
outbreak for example, and to remember in this instance 
that six months before the hut tax there, was put on, 
the Chambers had strongly advised the Government 

Xiv THE HUT TAX 275 

against it, and had received in reply the answer that 
" The Secretary of State sees no reason to suppose 
that the hut tax will be oppressive, or that it will be 
less easy to collect in Sierra Leone than in Gambia." 
Why, you could not get a prophetic almanac into a 
second issue if it were not based on truer knowledge 
than that which made it possible for such a thing to be 
said. Nevertheless, no doubt this remarkable sentence 
was written believing the same to be true, and confiding 
in the information in the hands of the Colonial Office 
from the official and philanthropic sources in which the 
Office believes. 

T 2 



Wherein is set down the other, or main, reason against this system. 

Having attempted to explain the internal evils or 
what one might call the domestic rows of the Crown 
Colony system, I will pass on to the external evils — 
which although in a measure consequent on the internal 
are not entirely so, and this point cannot be too 
clearly borne in mind. Tinker it up as you may, the 
system will remain one pre-eminently unsuited for the 
administration of West Africa. 

You might arrange that officials working under it 
should be treated better than the official now is, and 
the West African service be brought into line in honour 
with the Indian, and afford a man a good sound career. 
You might arrange for the Chambers of Commerce, 
representing the commercial factor, to have a place in 
Colonial Office councils. But if you did these things 
the Crown Colony system would still remain unsuited to 
West Africa, because it is a system intrinsically too 
expensive in men and money, so that the more you 
develop it the more expensive it becomes. Concerning 
this system as applied to the West Indies a West 
Indian authority the other day said it was putting an 
elephant to draw a goat chaise ; concerning the West 
African application of it, I should say it was trying to 
open a tin case with a tortoise-shell paper knife. Of 


course you will say I am no authority, and you must 
choose between those who will tell you that only a little 
patience is required, and the result of the present 
governmental system in West Africa will blossom 
into philanthropic and financial successes, and me, who 
say it cannot do so, but must result in making West 
Africa a debt-ridden curse to England. All I can say 
for myself is, that I am animated by no dislike to 
any set of men and without one farthing's financial 
interest in West Africa. It would not affect my income 
if you were to put 100 per cent, ad valorem duty on 
every trade article in use on the Coast and flood the 
Coast with officials, paid as men should be paid who 
have to go there, namely, at least three times more than 
they are at present. My dislike to the present state of 
affairs is solely a dislike to seeing my country, to my 
mind, make a fool of herself, wasting men's lives in the 
process and deluding herself with the idea that the 
performance will repay her. 

Personally, I cannot avoid thinking that before you 
cast yourself in a whole-souled way into developing any- 
thing, you should have a knowledge of the nature of the 
thing as it is on scientific lines. Education and develop- 
ment unless backed by this knowledge are liable to be 
thrown away, or to produce results you have no use for. 
I remember a distressing case that occurred in West 
Africa which supports my opinion. A valued friend of 
mine, a seaman of great knowledge and experience, yet 
lacking in that critical spirit which inquires into the 
nature of things before proceeding with them, confident 
alone in the rectitude of his own intentions, bought a 
canary bird at a Canary Island. He knew that the men 
who sell canaries down there are up to the sample de- 
scription of deceitful above all things and desperately 
wicked. So he brought to bear upon the transaction a 
deal of subtlety, but neglected fundamental facts, whereby 
his triumph at having, on the whole, done the canary 
seller brown by getting him to take in part value for 
the bird a box of German colonial-grown cigars, was 
vanity. For weeks that gallant seaman rubbed a wet 


cork up and down an empty whisky bottle within the 
hearing of the bird, which is the proper thing to do 
providing things are all right in themselves, and yet 
nothing beyond genial twitterings rewarded his exertions. 
So he rubbed on for another week with even greater 
feeling and persuasive power, and then, to drop a veil 
upon this tragedy of lost endeavour, that canary laid an 
egg. Now, if that man had only attended to the nature 
of things and seen whether it were a cock or hen bird, 
he would not have been subjected to this grievous dis- 
appointment. Similarly, it seems to me, we are, from the 
governmental point of view, like that sea captain — 
swimming about in the West African affair with a lot of 
subtle details, in an atmosphere of good intentions, but 
not in touch with important facts ; we are acting 
logically from faulty premises. 

Now, let us grant that the Crown Colony system is 
not fully developed in West Africa, for if it were, you 
may say, it would work all right ; though this I con- 
sider a most dangerous idea. Let us see what it would 
be if it were fully developed. 

Mr. St. Loe Strachey * thus defines Crown Colonies : — 
" These are possessions which are for the most part 
peopled by non-European races of dark colour, and 
governed not by persons elected by themselves, but by 
a Governor and other officials sent out from England. 
The reason for this difference is a very simple one. 
Those colonies which are peopled by men of English 
and European races can provide themselves with a 
better government than we can provide them with from 
here. Hence they are given responsible governments. 

" Those colonies in which the English or European 
element is very small can best be governed, it is found, 
by the Crown Colony system. The native, dark-skinned 
population are not fit to govern themselves — they are 
too ignorant and too uncivilised, and if the government 
is left entirely in the hands of the small number of 
whites who may happen to live in the colony, they are 
apt not to take enough care of the interests of the 

1 Industrial a?id Social Life of the Empire. Macmillan and Co. 


coloured inhabitants. The simplest form of the Crown 
Colony is that found in some of the smaller groups of 
islands in the West Indies. Here a Governor is sent 
out from England, and he — helped by a secretary, a 
judge, and other officials — governs the island, reporting 
his actions to the Colonial Office, and consulting the 
able officials there before he takes important steps. In 
most cases, however, the Governor has a council, either 
nominated from among the principal persons in the 
colony, or else elected by the inhabitants. In some cases 
— Jamaica or Barbadoes, for example — the council has 
very great power, and the type of government may be 
said to approach that of the self-governing colonies." 

Now, in West Africa the system is the same as that 
" found in some of the smaller groups of the West 
Indian islands," although these West African colonies 
have each a nominated council of some kind. I should 
hesitate to say, however, " to assist the Governor." Being 
nominated by him they can usually manage to agree 
with him ; it is only another hindrance or superfluous 
affair. Before taking any important steps the West 
African Governor is supposed to consult the officials at 
the Colonial Office ; but as the Colonial Office is not so 
well informed as the Governor himself is, this can be no 
help to him if he be a really able man, and no check on 
him if he be not an able man. For, be he what he may, 
he is the representative of the Colonial Office ; he can- 
not, it is true, persuade the Colonial Office to go and 
involve itself in rows with European continental powers, 
because the Office knows about them ; but if he is a 
strong-minded man with a fad he can persuade the 
Colonial Office to let him try that fad on the natives or 
the traders, because the Colonial Office does not know 
the natives nor the West African trade. 

You see, therefore, you have in the Governor of a 
West African possession a man in a bad position. He 
is aided by no council worth having, no regular set of 
experts ; he is held in by another council equally non- 
expert, except in the direction of continental politics. 
He may keep out of mischief; he could, if he were 


given either time or inducement to study the native 
languages, laws, and general ethnology of his colony, 
do much good ; but how can he do these things, separated 
from the native population, as he necessarily is, by his 
under officials, and with his time taken up, just as every 
official's time is taken up under the Crown Colony 
system, with a mass of red-tape clerk work that is un- 
necessary and intrinsically valueless? I do not pretend 
to any personal acquaintance with English West African 
Governors. I only look on their affairs from outside, 
but I have seen some great men among them. One of 
them who is dead would, I believe, had the climate 
spared him, have become a man whom every one in- 
terested in West Africa would have respected and 
admired. He came from a totally different region, the 
Straits Settlements. He found his West African domain 
in a lethargic mess, and he hit out right and left, falling, 
like the rain, on the just and the unjust. I do not wish 
you to take his utterances or his actions as representing 
him ; but from the spirit of them it is clear he would 
have become a great blessing to the Coast had he but 
lived long enough. I am aware he was unpopular from 
his attempts to enforce the ill-drafted Land Ordinance, 
but primarily responsible for this ill-judged thing he 
was not. 

In addition to Sir William Maxwell there have been, 
and are still, other Governors representative of what 
is best in England ; but, circumstanced as they are under 
this system, continually interrupted as their work is by 
death or furloughs home, neither England nor West 
Africa gets one-tenth part of the true value of these 

In addition to the Governor, there are the other 
officials, medical, legal, secretarial, constabulary, and 
customs. The majority of these are engaged in looking 
after each other and clerking. Clerking is the breath o 
the Crown Colony system, and customs what it feeds on. 
Owing to the climate it is practically necessary to have 
a double staff in all these departments — that is what 
the system would have if it were perfect ; as it is, some 

: < 


official's work is always being done by a subordinate ; 
it may be equally well done, but it is not equally well 
paid for, and there is no continuity of policy in any 
department except those which are entirely clerk and 
theexpense of this is necessarily great. The main evil 
of this want_of. continuity is of course in the Governors 
— a Governor goes out, starts a new line of policy, goes 
home on furlough leaving in charge the Colonial Secre- 
tary, who does not by all means always feel enthusiastic 
towards that policy; so it languishes. Governor comes 
back, goes at it again like a giant refreshed, but by 
no means better acquainted with local affairs for having 
been away ; then he goes home again, or dies, or gets 
a new appointment ; a brand new Governor comes out, 
he starts a new line of policy, perhaps has a new Colonial 
Secretary into the bargain ; anyhow the thing goes on 
wavering, not advancing. The only desc rjp_tipn I have 
heard of our policy in West African Colonies that seems 
t o me to"cTo J t justiaTis that given by ame dical friend 
of mine, who said it was a coma accompanied byjits._ ^ 

Q£ course this wouldjiot be the_case ; if the : Colonial 
Offic e TiacT a defi nite detailed policy of its own , and 
merely sent out men to~arry it ou t ; but this the 
Colonial Office has not got and cannot have, b ecause 
it "has not got the scientific a nd commercial facts of 
Wj^Afnca in its possession. It has therefore to depend 
on the Governors it sends out ; and these, as aforesaid, 
are men of divers minds. One Governor is truly great 
on drains ; he spends lots of money on them. Another 
Governor thinks education and a cathedral more impor- 
tant; during his reign drains languish. Yet another 
Governor comes along and says if there are schools 
wanted they should be under non-sectarian control, but 
what is wanted is a railway ; and so it goes on, and of 
course leads to an immense waste of money. And this 
waste of money is a far more serious thing than it looks ; 
for it is from it that the policy has arisen, of increasing 
customs dues to a point that seriously hampers trade 
development, and the far more serious evil of attempting 
directly as well as indirectly to tax the native population. 


I am bound to say I believe any ordinary Englishman 
would be fairly staggered if he went out to West Africa 
and saw what there was to show for the expenditure of 
the last few years in our Crown Colonies there, 1 and 
knew that all that money had been honestly expended 
in the main, that none of it had been appropriated by 
the officials, that they had only had their pay, and that 
none too great. 

But, you will say, after all, if West Africa is as rich 
as it is said to be, surely it can stand a little wasteful 
expenditure, and support an even more expensive 
administration than it now has. All I can say is, that it 
can stand wasteful expenditure, but only up to a certain 
point, which is now passed ; it would perhaps be more 
true to say it could stand wasteful expenditure before 
the factor of the competition of French and German 
colonies alongside came in ; and that a wasteful expen- 
diture that necessitates unjust methods of raising revenue, 
such as direct taxation on the natives, is a thing West 
Africa will not stand at all. Of course you can do it ; 
you can impose direct taxation on the native population, 
but you cannot make it financially pay to do so ; for 
one thing, the collection of that tax will require a con- 
siderable multiplication of officials black and white, the 
black section will by their oppressive methods engender 
war, and the joint body will consume more than the 
amount that can be collected. From a fiscal standpoint 
direct taxation of a non-Mohammedanised or non- 
Christianised community is rank foolishness, for reasons 
known to every ethnologist. As for the natural riches of 
West Africa, I am a profound believer in them, and 
regard West Africa, taken as a whole, as one of the 
richest regions in the world ; but, as Sir William 
Maxwell said, " I am convinced that, from causes wholly 
unpreventable, West Africa is and must remain a place 
with certain peculiar dangers of its own " 2 ; therefore it 

1 For Lagos, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia from 1892 
to 1896, ^2,364,266. 

2 Forty-eighth annual report Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 


requires most careful, expert handling. It is no use 
your trying to get its riches out by a set of hasty amateur 
experiments ; it is no use just dumping down capital on 
it and calling these goings on "Developing the resources," 
or " Raising the African in the plane of civilisation ; " 
because these goings on are not these things, they are 
but sacrifices on the altars of folly and idleness. 

Properly managed, those parts of West Africa which 
our past apathy has left to us are capable of being made 
into a group of possessions before which the direct value 
to England, in England, of all the other regions that we 
hold in the world would sink into insignificance. 

Sir William Maxwell, when he referred to "causes 
wholly unpreventable," was referring mainly to the 
unhealthiness of West Africa. There seems no escape 
from this great drawback. Every other difficulty 
connected with it one can imagine removable by human 
activity and ingenuity — even the labour difficulty — but, 
I fear, not so the fever. Although this is not a thing 
to discourage England from holding West Africa, it is 
a thing which calls for greater forethought in the ad- 
ministration of it than she need give to a healthy region. 
In a healthy region it does not matter so much whether 
there is an excess over requirements in the number of 
men employed to administer it, but in one with a death 
rate of at least 35 per cent, of white men it does matter. 

I confess it is this excessive expenditure of men 
which I dislike most in the Crown Colony system, 
though I know it cannot help it ; it is in the make of 
the thing. If these men were even employed in some 
great undertaking it would be less grievous ; but they 
are many of them entirely taken up with clerk work, 
and all of them have to waste a large percentage of their 
time on it. Some of the men undoubtedly get to like 
this, but it is a morbid taste. I know one of our posses- 
sions where the officials even carry on their personal 
quarrels with each other on government paper in a high 
official style, when it would be better if they put aside 
an hour a week and went and punched each other's 
heads, and gave the rest of their time to studying 


native law and languages and pottering about the 
country getting up information on it at large, so that 
the natives would become familiarised with the nature 
of Englishmen first-hand, instead of being dependent 
for their knowledge of them on interpreters and the 
set of subordinate native officials and native police. 

I wish that it lay in my power to place before you 
merely a set of figures that would show you the present 
state of our West African affairs, but such figures do 
not exist. Practically speaking, there are no reliable 
figures for West African affairs. They are not cooked, 
but you know what figures are — unless they be com- 
plete and in their proper stations, they are valueless. 

The figures we have are those which appear in 
" The Colonial Annual Series " of reports. These are 
not annual ; for example, the Gold Coast one was not 
published for three years ; but no matter, when they are 
published they are misleading enough, unless you know 
things not mentioned in them but connected with them. 
However, we will just run through the figures published 
for one West African Crown Colony. For many reasons 
I am sorry to have to take those regarding Sierra 
Leone, but I must, as at present they are the most 
correct available. 

Now the element of error which must be allowed 
for in these arises from the proximity of the French 
colony of French Guinea, which is next door to Sierra 
Leone. That colony has been really developing its 
exports. Goods have, up to last year, come out through 
our colony of Sierra Leone, and have been included 
with the exports of Sierra Leone itself, though Sierra 
Leone has not dwelt on this interesting fact. And, 
equally, since 1890 goods going into French Guinea have 
gone in through Sierra Leone, and though traceable with 
care, have been put in with the total of the imports. So 
you see it is a little difficult to find out whether it has 
been French Guinea or Sierra Leone that has really been 
doing the trade mentioned in the figures. 

Nevertheless, it has been customary to take these 
joint, mixed up figures and get happy over " the increase 


of trade in Sierra Leone during the past ten years " ; but 
a little calm consideration will prevent you from falling 
into this idle error. 

Personally I think that if you are cautious you 
will try and estimate the trade by the exports ; for 
among the imports there are Government stores, railway 
material, &c, things that will have some day to be paid 
for, because it is the rule not to assist a colony under 
the system until it has been reduced to a West Indian 
condition ; whereas the exports give you the buying 
power of the colony, and show the limits of the trade 
which may be expected to be done under existing con- 
ditions. Now, the annual total exports during the five 
years ending — 

1875, amounted in value to, £396,709 

1880, „ „ „ £368,855 

1885, „ „ „ £386,848 

1890, „ „ „ £333,390 

1895, » » » £435,175 

These figures show for the twenty-five years an in- 
crease of less than 10 per cent., or about \ per cent, per 
annum ; and this is not so very thrilling when one comes 
to think that that 10 per cent., and probably more, is 
showing the increase in the trade not of Sierra Leone, 
but of French Guinea, and remembers that in 1874 the 
exports were £481,894, an amount they have not since 

Then again even in error you are never quite sure 
if your Colonial Annual is keeping line ; sometimes you 
will get one by a careful conscientious secretary who 
takes no end of trouble, and tells you lots of things 
which you would like to hear about next year, only 
next year you don't. For example, in Sierra Leone 
affairs the report for 1887 gave you the imports for 
consumption in the colony, while that of 1896 repre- 
sented the total imports, including those afterwards 
shipped to French Guinea and elsewhere ; and again, in 
estimating the value of the imports Gambia adds the 


cost of freight and insurance to the invoice value of 
imports, and the cost of package to the declared value 
of exports. So far, only Gambia does this, but at any 
moment an equally laudable spirit might develop in 
one of the other colonies, and cause further distraction 
to the student of their figures. 

Besides these clerking errors of omission, there is 
a constant unavoidable error arising from the so-called 
smuggling done by the native traders in the hinter- 
land. Remember that colonies which you see neatly 
enough marked on a map of West Africa with French, 
English, German, are not really each surrounded by a 
set of Great Walls of China. For example, under the 
present arrangement with France, if France keeps to 
that beautiful Article IX. in the Niger Convention and 
does not tax English goods more than she at present 
taxes French goods on the Ivory Coast — cottons of 
English manufacture will be able to be sold 10 per 
cent, cheaper in the French territory than in the adjacent 
English Gold Coast. 

Up to the present time it has paid the native hinter- 
land trader to come down into the Gold Coast and 
buy his cotton goods, for English cottons suit his West 
African markets better than other makes, that is to 
say they have a higher buying power ; and then he 
went down into the French Ivory Coast and bought 
his spirits and guns, which were cheaper there because 
of lower duty. Having got his selection together he 
went off and did business with the raw material sellers, 
and sold the raw material he had purchased back to 
the two Coasts from which he had bought his selection, 
sending the greater part of it to the best market for 
the time being. Now you have changed that, or, rather, 
you have given France the power to change it by selling 
English cottons cheaper than they can be sold in your 
own possessions, and thereby rendered it unnecessary 
for the hinterland traders to buy on the Gold Coast at 
all. It will remain necessary for him to buy on the 
Ivory Coast, for spirits and guns he must have ; and if 
he can get his cottons at the same place as he gets 


these, so much the better for him. It is doubtful, how- 
ever, whether henceforth it will be worth his while to 
come down and sell his raw material in your possessions 
at all. He may browse around your interior towns and 
suck the produce out of them, but it will be to the 
enrichment of the French colony next door ; and, of 
course, as things are even now, this sort of thing, which 
goes on throughout all the various colonies of France, 
England, Germany and Portugal, does not tend to give 
true value to the official figures concerning trade pub- 
lished by any one of them. 

I have no intention, however, of dwelling on the 
various methods employed by native smugglers with a 
view to aiding their suppression. It may be a hereditary 
taint contracted by my ancestors while they sojourned 
in Devon, it may be private personal villany of my 
own ; but anyhow, I never feel, as from an official stand- 
point I ought, towards smugglers. I do not ask you to 
regard the African native trader as a sweet innocent 
who does not realise the villainy of his doings — he knows 
all about it ; but only once did I feel harshly towards 
him over smuggling. A native trader had arranged to 
give me a lift, as it were, in his canoe, and I noticed, with 
a flattered vanity and a feeling of gratitude, how very 
careful he had been to make me quite comfortable in 
the stern, with a perfect little nest of mats and cloths. 
When we reached our destination and that nest was 
taken to pieces, I saw that what you might call the 
backbone of the affair was three kegs of gunpowder, a 
case of kerosine, and some packages of lucifer matches. 
That rascal fellow black, as Barbot would call him, had ex- 
pected we should meet the customs patrol boat, and, basely 
encroaching on the chivalry of the white man towards 
the white woman judged that I and my nest would not 
be overhauled. If there had been a guardian cherub 
for the Brussels Convention or for Customs doubtless I 
should have been blown sky high and have afforded 
material for a moral tale called " The Smuggler's 
Awful End," but there are no cherubs who watch 
over Customs or the Brussels Convention in West 


Africa, and I have no intention of volunteering for such 
an appointment. 

But to return to the Sierra Leone finances and the re- 
lationship which the expenditure of that colony bears to 
the revenue. The increase in the imports is apparently 
the thing depended on to justify the idea that as the trade 
has increased the governmental expenditure has a right 
to do so likewise. The imports increase in 1896 is given 
as £90,683. From this you must deduct for railway 
material, £26,000, and for the increased specie import 
£19,591, which leaves you an increase of imports of 
£45,092 from 1887 — 1896, and remember a good per- 
centage of this remainder of £45,092 belongs to French 

Now the expenditure on the government of Sierra 
Leone has increased from £58,534 in 1887 to £116,183, 
being an increase at the rate of 99*1 per cent., whereas 
the exports during the same period have increased at 
the rate of 34*8 per cent, or from £333,157 to 


In other words, whereas in 1887 the government ex- 
penditure amounted to 17*5 per cent, the exports in 
1896 amounted to 25-4 per cent. The sum of £40,579 
of this increase is credited to police, gaols, transport, and 
public works ; x and if this is to be the normal rate of 
increase, the prospects of the colony are serious ; for it 
contains no rich mineral deposit as far as is at present 
known, nor are there in it any great native states. As 
far as we know, Sierra Leone must for an immense 
period depend on bush products collected by the natives, 
whose trade wants are only a few luxuries. For it must 
be remembered that in all these West African Colonies 

£ Increase 

1 Expenditure on police and gaols, 1896 31,504 £ 

„ „ » 1887 3,037 28,467 

Expenditure on transport 1896 10,091 

„ „ 1887 3,298 6,793 

Expenditure on public works 1896 6,736 

1887 1,417 5,319 

Aggregate increase 40, 579 


there is not one single thing Europeans can sell to the 
natives that is of the nature of a true necessity, a thing 
the natives must have or starve. There is but one thing 
that even approaches in the West African markets to 
what wheat is in our own — that thing is tobacco. Next 
in importance to it, but considerably lower, is the group 
of trade articles — gunpowder, guns and spirits, next 
again salt, and below these four staples come Manchester 
goods and miscellanies ; the whole of the rest that lies 
in the power of civilisation to offer to the West African 
markets are things that are luxuries, things that will 
only be purchased by the native when he is in a state of 
prosperity. This subject I have, however, endeavoured 
to explain elsewhere. 1 

We have for Sierra Leone, fortunately, a scientific 
authority to refer to on this matter of the natural re- 
sources of the country, and the amount of the natural 
riches we may presume we can take into account when 
arranging fiscal matters. This authority is the report of 
Mr. Scott-Elliott on the district traversed by the Anglo- 
French Boundary Commission. 2 

Regarding mineral, the report states " that the only 
mineral of importance is iron, of which the country ap- 
pears to contain a very large amount. There is a par- 
ticularly rich belt of titaniferous iron ore in the hills 
behind Sierra Leone." 

Titaniferous iron is an excellent thing in its way, 
and good for steel making ; but it exists nearer home 
and in cheaper worked regions than Sierra Leone. 

The soil is grouped by the report into three classes : 

" 1. That of the plateaux and hills above 2,000, or 
sometimes descending to 1,000 feet, which is due to the 
disintegration of gneiss and granite rocks. 

" 2. The red laterite which covers almost invariably 
all the lower hills from the sea level to 1,000 or 2,000 

1 "The Liquor Traffic in West Africa," Fortnightly Review, 
April, 1898. 

2 Colonial Reports, Miscellaneous, No. 3, 1893. G. F. Scott- 
Elliott, M.A., F.L.S., and C. A. Raisin, B.Sc. 



"3. The alluvium, due either to the action of the 
mangroves along the coast, or to the rivers and streams 

These soils are capable of and do produce fine timber, 
rubber, oil and rice, and the general tropical food stuffs, 
but these, except the three first, are not very valuable 
export articles. Whether it is possible to enhance the 
agricultural value of the alluvium regions by growing 
tobacco, jute, coffee, cocoa, cotton and sugar, for export, 
is by some authorities regarded as doubtful on account 
of the labour problem ; but at any rate, if these 
industries were taken in hand on a large scale, a scale 
sufficient materially to alter the resources of a West 
African colony, they would require many years of 
fostering, and it would be long before they could con- 
tribute greatly to the resources of such a colony as Sierra 
Leone, in the face of the organised production and 
cheaper labour, wherewith the supply now in the markets 
of Europe could be competed with. 

I have had the advantage of associating with German 
and Portuguese and French planters of coffee and cocoa. 
These are the planters who up to the present have been 
the most successful in West Africa. I do not say be- 
cause they are better men, but because they have better 
soils and better labour than there is in our colonies. 
By these gentlemen I have been industriously educated 
in soils, &c. ; and from what I have learnt about this 
matter I am bound regretfully to say that most of the 
soil of the English possessions is not really rich, taken 
in the main. There are in places patches of rich soil ; 
and the greater part of our soil will be all the better this 
day 10,000 years hence ; but at present the soil is mainly 
sour clay, slime and skin soils, skin soils over rock, skin 
soils over sour clay, skin soils over water-logged soil. 
We have, alas, not got the rich volcanic earth of Came- 
roon, Fernando Po, and San Thome and Principe. The 
natives who work the soil understand it fairly well, and 
negro agriculture is in a well-developed state, and their 
farms are most carefully tended and well kept. The 


rule along the Bight of Benin and Biafra is to change 
the soil of the farm at least every third year ; this they 
do by cutting down a new bit of bush, burning the bush 
on the ground at the end of the dry season, and planting 
the crops. The old farm is then allowed to grow bush 
or long grass, whichever the particular district goes in 
for, until the time comes to work back on that piece of 
land again, when the bush which has grown is in its 
turn cut down and the ground replanted. This burning 
of the trees or grass is clearly regarded by the native 
agriculturist as manuring ; it is practically the only 
method of manuring available for them in a country 
where cattle in quantities are not kept. It is a wasteful 
way with timber and rubber growing on the ground of 
course ; but not so widely wasteful as it looks, for your 
negro agriculturist does not go to make his farm on bits 
of forest that require very hard clearing work. He clears 
as easily as he can by means of collecting the great 
fluffy seed bunches of a certain tree which are in- 
flammable and adding to them all the other inflammable 
material he can get ; he then places these bonfires in the 
bit of forest he wants to clear and sets fire to them on a 
favourable night, when the proper sort of breeze is blow- 
ing to fan the flames ; when the conflagration is over, he 
fells a few of the trees and leaves the rest standing scorched 
but not killed. Moreover, of course an African gentle- 
man cannot go and make his farm anywhere he likes : 
he has to stick to the land which belongs to his family, 
and work round and round on that. This gives a highly 
untidy aspect to the family estate, you might think ; con- 
sidering the extent of it, a very small percentage 
must be kept under cultivation and the rest neg- 
lected. But this is not really so ; if you were to go 
and take away from him a bit of the neglected land, 
you would be taking his farm, say for the year after 
next and grievously inconvenience him, and he would 
know it. 

The native method of making farms does not, indeed, 
do so much harm in well-watered, densely-populated 

U 2 


regions like those of Sierra Leone or the Niger Delta ; 
but it does do an immense amount of harm in regions 
that are densely populated and require to make exten- 
sive farms, more particularly in the regions of Lagos 
and the Gold Coast, where the fertile belt is only a 
narrow ribbon, edged on the one side by the sand sea 
of the Sahara, and on the other by the salt sea of the 
South Atlantic. You can see the result of it in the 
district round Accra, which has always been heavily 
populated ; for hundreds of years the forest has been 
kept down by agricultural enterprise. Consequences 
are, the rainfall is now diminished to a point that threatens 
to extinguish agriculture, at any rate, a sufficient agricul- 
ture to support the local population ; and it is not too 
much to say you can read on the face of the Accra plain 
famines to come. There is little reason to doubt that 
both the African deserts, the Sahara and the Kalahari, 
are advancing towards the Equator. Round Loanda 
you come across a sand-logged region of some fifty 
square miles, where you get the gum shed by forests 
that have gone, humanly speaking, never to return ; 
human agency is largely responsible, it is like sawing 
the branch of a tree partially through, and then the 
wind breaks it off. Forest destruction in lands adjacent 
to deserts is the same thing ; the forest is destroyed to a 
certain extent, an extent that diminishes the rainfall 
and makes it unable to resist the desert winds, and 
then — finis. 

In the regions of the double rains in the great forest 
belt of Africa things are different, so you cannot gene- 
ralise for West Africa at large in this matter. It is one 
thing for forest destruction to go on in the Gold Coast, 
quite another for it to go on in Calabar or Congo Fran- 
cois, where men fight back the forest as Dutchmen fight 
the sea. 

But I apologise. This, you will say, is not connected 
with Governmental expenditure, &c, but it is to me a 
more amusing subject, and indirectly has a bearing ; for 
example, Government expenditure in the direction of 


instituting a Forestry Department would be right 
enough in some regions, but unnecessary in others. 

To return to this agriculture in Sierra Leone. Well, it 
is, like all West African agriculture, spade husbandry. It 
is concerned with the cultivation of vegetables for human 
consumption alone. In the interior of Sierra Leone and 
throughout the Western Soudan, for which Sierra Leone 
was once a principal port, there is a fair cattle country, 
and an old established one, as is shown by the exports of 
hides mentioned in the writers of the seventeenth century. 
Yet it would be idle for the most enthusiastic believer in 
West Africa to pretend that the Western Soudan is 
coming on to compete with Argentina or Australia in the 
export of frozen meat ; the climate is against it, and 
therefore this cattle country can only be represented in 
trade in a hide and horn export. Wool — as the sheep 
won't wear it, preferring hair instead and that of poor 
quality — need not I think be looked forward to from 
West Africa at all. 

I have taken the published accounts of Sierra Leone, 
because, as I have said, they are the most complete, 
They are also, in the main, the most typical. It is true 
that Sierra Leone has not the gold wealth, nor the 
developing timber industry of the Gold Coast ; but if you 
ignore French Guinea, and include the things belonging 
to it with the Sierra Leone totals, you will get a fairly 
equivalent result. Lagos has not yet shown a mineral 
export, but it and the Gold Coast has shown of late years 
an immensely increased export of rubber. Rubber, oil, 
and timber are the three great riches of our West African 
possessions, the things that may be relied on, as being 
now of great value and capable of immense expansion. 
But these things can only be made serviceable to the 
markets of the world and a source of riches to England 
by the co-operation of the natives of the country. In 
other words, you must solve the labour problem on the 
one hand, and increase the prosperity of the native 
population on the other, in order to make West Africa 
pay you back the value of the life and money already 


paid for her. This solution of the labour problem and 
this co-operation of the natives with you, the Crown 
Colony system will never gain for you, because it is too 
expensive for you and unjust to them, not intentionally, 
not vindictively nor wickedly, but just from ignorance. 
It destroys the native form of society, and thereby 
disorganises labour. It has no power of re-organising it. 
You hear that people are leaving Coomassie and Benin, 
instead of nocking in to those places, as they were ex- 
pected to after the destruction of the local tyrannies. 
English influence in West Africa, represented as it now 
is by three separate classes of Englishmen, with no 
common object of interest, or aim in policy, is not a thing 
capable of re-organising so difficult a region. I have taken 
the Sierra Leone figures because, as I have said, they are 
the most complete and typical, and the state of the trade 
and the expenditure on the Government are those prior to 
the hut tax war. So they cannot be ascribed to it, nor 
can the plea be lodged that the expenditure was an en- 
forced one. These figures merely show you the thing that 
led up to the hut tax war and the heavy enforced 
expenditure it has and will entail and my reason for 
detaining you with them is the conviction that a similar 
policy pursued in our other colonies will lead to the same 
results — the destruction of trade and the imposition on 
the colonies of a debt that their natural resources cannot 
meet unless we are prepared to go in for forced labour 
and revert to the slave trade policy. 

It seems clear enough that our present policy in the 
Crown Colonies, of a rapidly increasing expenditure in 
the face of a steadily falling trade, must necessarily lead 
our Government to seek for new sources of revenue 
beyond customs dues. New sources under our present 
system can only be found in direct taxation of the 
native population ; the result of this is now known. 

I will not attempt to deal fully with the figures we 
possess for our remaining Crown Colonies in Western 
Africa, — Gambia, the Gold Coast, and Lagos, — but 
merely refer to a few points regarding them that have 


so far been published. When the result of the policy- 
pursued in these colonies leads to the inevitable row, 
and the figures are dealt with by competent men, there 
is, to my mind, no doubt that a state equal to that of 
Sierra Leone as a fool's paradise will be discovered ; 
and the deplorable part of the thing is, that the trade 
palavers of the Chambers and the Colonial Office will 
give to hasty politicians the idea that West Africa is not 
worthy of Imperial attention, and large quantities of the 
blame for this failure of our colonies will be put down 
quite unjustly to French interference. That French 
interference has troubled our colonies there, no one will 
attempt to deny ; or that if it had been acting on them 
when they were in a healthy state it would merely have 
had a tonic effect, as it has had on the Royal Niger 
Company's territories ; but, acting on the Crown 
Colonies in their present state, French influence has 
naturally been poisonous. Even I, not given to sweet 
mouth as I am, shrink from saying what has been the 
true effect on the Crown Colonies of England of the 
policy pursued by us towards French advance. This only 
will I say, that the French policy is no discredit to France. 
Regarding the financial condition of Gambia it is not 
necessary for us to worry ourselves. Gambia is a 
nuisance to France. She loves to have high dues, and 
she cannot have them round Gambia way. She has 
had to encyst it, or it would be to her Senegal and 
French Guinea possessions a regular main to lay on 
smuggling. Knowing this she has encysted it ; it pays 
better to smuggle from French Guinea into Gambia or 
Sierra Leone than from Gambia or Sierra Leone into 
the French possessions. This is a grave commercial 
position for us, but to it is largely owing the advance of 
the prosperity of these French possessions during the 
past three years. 

The Gold Coast has on the west a French possession, 
the Ivory Coast, on the east the German Togoland. 
Togo is a narrow strip, and to its east and surrounding 
it to the north is the French colony of Dahomey, whose 
recent expansion has told heavily on its next-door 


neighbours, both Togo and the English colony to the east 
Lagos. I give below the latest available figures for the 
foreign West African possessions. 1 

Unfortunately there are no figures available for the 
French Soudan which would represent the real value of 
the trade : the total value of trade is, however, consider- 
able. You must remember that in dealing with French 
colonies you are dealing with those of a nation not 
gifted with commercial intelligence; and that, in spite of 
the perpetual hampering of trade in French colonies, the 
granting of concessions to French firms, who have not 
the capital to work them, but are only able to prevent 
any one else doing so ; the high differential tariffs, in some 
cases ioo per cent., which up to the present time have 
been levied on English goods, &c. ; the English traders 
nevertheless work in the markets of the French colonies, 
and work mainly on French goods. Of the .£117,518 

1 French colonies — 

Imports. Exports. 

1896. 1897. 1896. 1897. 

£ £ £ £ 

Senegal 1,047,000 1,167,000 783,000 845,000 

French Guinea... 185,000 240,000* 231,000 201,000 

Ivory Coast 186,000 188,000 176,000 189,000 

Dahomey 389,000 330,000 364,000 231,000 

French Congo ... 192,000 f 190,000 f 

* For nine months only, j* No statistics. 

Trade of Dahomey and the Ivory Coast for the first three 
months of 1898 — 

Imports. Exports. Total trade. 

£ £ £ 

Ivory Coast 58,658 58,560 H7>5i8 

Dahomey 84,064 72,771 156,835 

German possessions — 

Imports. Exports. 

» » 

1895. 1896. 1897. 1895. l8 96. 1897. 

£ £ £ £ £ £ 

Togoland... 117,000 94,000 99,000 152,000 83,000 39,000 

Cameroon s 283,0 00 268,000 * 204,000 198,000 * 

Total... 400,000 362,000 * 356,000 281,000 * 

* No figures available for calendar year. Board of Trade 
Journal^ September, 1898. 


representing the Ivory Coast trade for the first quarter 
of this year, over £76,000 was English trade, and of the 
Dahomey £156,835 for the same period, £1 3 1,705. In 
reading the imports figures for these French colonies in 
Upper Guinea, you must remember that those imports 
include material for the well directed, unamiable inten- 
tion of France to cut us off from what she regards as her 
own Western Soudan ; it is a form of investment far 
more profitable than our expenditure on railways, gaols, 
prisons, and frontier police. It is one that, presuming 
this highly unlikely thing — France becoming commer- 
cially intelligent — would any year now enable her 
entirely to pocket the West African trade down to Lagos 
from Senegal. She may do it at any moment, though it 
is a very remote possibility. So we will return to the 
Gold Coast finances, though our authorities on them are 
at present meagre. 

In 1892 the Gold Coast government was financially in a 
flourishing condition. On the 1st of January, 1891, there 
was a sum of ^"7 5,181 4s. /\d. standing to the credit of the 
colony, which was increased to £127,796 2S. 3d. on the 
1st of January, 1892, and to £152,766 16s. yd. on the 1st 
of January, 1893, and the colony had no public debt. 
There was no native direct taxation. The Customs dues 
were lower than they are now. The extremely careful 
official who drew up the report shows evidence of realis- 
ing that Customs represent an indirect taxation on the 
native population, for he says : " In Sierra Leone and 
Lagos the taxation per head is very much higher (than, 
2s. $d. per head), in the former nine times, and in the 
latter seven times." 1 However, in all three colonies, apart 
from the attempts at direct taxation, the indirect taxation 
on the native has considerably increased by now. 

The report for 1894 shows the colony still progressing 
rapidly, the trade of it amounting in value to £1,663,173 
igs. gd, of which £812,830 8s. lod. represented the 
imports and £850,343 10s. lid. the exports. The 
expenditure showed a large increase as compared with 
previous years. It amounted to £226,931 igs. 4.d., being 

1 Colonial Annual, No. 88, Gold Coast for 1892, published 1893. 


£8,670 13s. yd. in excess of the revenue for the year, and 
£47,997 7s. 1 id. more than in 1893. The principal items 
of increase were public works, upon which the sum of 
£54, 1 63 os. 3d. was spent, and the expedition in defence 
of the protected district of Attabubu against an Ashantee 
invasion, which cost £10,778 1 is. The Gold Coast 
assets on 3istof December, 1894, stood at £166,944 % s - 7& l 
Then came the last Ashantee war, regarding which I beg 
to refer you to Dr. Freeman's book. 2 No one can deny 
that he has both experience and intelligence enough to 
justify him in offering his opinion on the matter. I en- 
tirely accept his statements from my knowledge of native 
affairs elsewhere in West Africa. Anyhow, the last 
Ashantee war absorbed a good deal of the assets of the 
Gold Coast. There is no published authority to cite, but 
I do not think there is an asset now standing to the credit 
of the Gold Coast Colony, unless it be a loan. 

The income for the Gold Coast Colony in 1896 was 
£237,460 6s. 7d, the expenditure £282,277 1 S S - 9^, The 
exports £792,111, against £877,804 in 1895; but the 
imports were £910,000, against £981,537. Since 1896 
the Customs dues have risen ; but, per contra, the expendi- 
ture has also risen, in consequence of the expenses 
arising from the occupation of Ashantee, and the 
Gold Coast railway. The occupation of Ashantee and 
the railway must be looked on in the light of investments 
— investments that will be profitable or unprofitable, 
according to their administration, which one must trust 
will be careful, for they are both things you cannot just 
dump your money down on and be done with, for the 
up-keep expenses of both are necessarily large. 

The subject of West African railways is one that all 
who are interested in the future of our possessions there 
should study most carefully, for two main reasons. 
Firstly,that there is possibly no other way in which money 
can be spent so unprofitably and extensively as on railways 
in such a region. Secondly, because railways are in 
several districts there — districts with no water carriage 

1 Colonial Annual, No. 188, Gold Coast for 1892, published 1893. 

2 Ashantee and Jaman. Constable, 1898. 


possibilities — simply essential to the expansion of trade. 
In other words, if you make your railway through the 
right district, in the right way, it is a thing worth having, a 
sound investment. If you do not, it is a thing you are 
better without ; not an investment, but an extravagance. 
The cost of its construction must fall on the colony, alike 
in money and the distraction, from ordinary trade, of the 
local labour supply. In both countries the cost of a railway 
out there is necessarily great. I hastily beg to observe I 
am not aiming at a rivalry with Martin Tupper in saying 
this, but am only driven to it by so many people in 
their haste saying " Oh, for goodness gracious sake ! 
Let the Government make a railway anywhere ; it's 
done little enough for us, and any railway is better than 

There has been considerable difficulty over the Gold 
Coast Railway already, though it is only just now en- 
tering on the phase of actual existence. Surveys have 
been made for it in all directions. Surveys are expensive 
things out there. But the general idea the Government 
gave the Chambers of Commerce was that, at any rate, 
this railway was to run up into Ashantee, and be a great 
general trade artery for the colony. The other day 
Manchester found out, quite unexpected like, that the 
Government whose affections Commerce had regarded as 
safely and properly set on the hinterland trade was off, 
if you please, flirting round the corner with a group of 
gold mines at Tarquah, and intended, nay, was even then 
proceeding with the undertaking of running the one and 
only Gold Coast Coast railway just up to Tarquah, and 
no further, until this section paid. Manchester, very 
properly shocked at this fickleness in the Government 
and its heartless abandonment of the hinterland trade, 
said things, interesting and excited things, in its Guar- 
dian ; but, beyond illustrating the truth of the old adage 
that it's " well to be off with the old love before you are 
on with the new," things of no avail. 

This Tarquah railway is estimated to cost £5,000 per 
mile. It is to be financed by a loan, raised by the Crown 
Colony Agents, of £250,000. We have ample reason to 


believe that this £5,000 per mile will not represent one- 
third of its final cost from demonstrations by the Uganda, 
Congo Beige, and Senegal railways ; more particularly 
are we so assured from the knowledge that the railway's 
construction will be in the hands of nominees of the 
Crown Agents, whose method of arranging for the con- 
struction of these railways is curious. They do not in- 
vite tenders for material or freight in the open market, 
and they do not give the taxed people in the country 
itself any opportunity for contracting for the supply of 
as much local material as possible — things it would be 
alike fair and business-like to do. Exceedingly curious, 
moreover, is the fact that the nominees of the Crown 
agents' employers are not subject to the control of the 
local governmental authorities on the Coast, their sole 
connection with the affair apparently being confined to 
the passing of ordinances, as per instruction from the 
Colonial Office, authorising loans for the payment of the 
debt incurred by making the railway. 

There is no doubt that any Gold Coast railway which 
is ever to pay even for its coal must run through a rich 
bit of the local gold reefs. Similarly, there is no doubt 
that the gold mines of the Gold Coast have been terribly 
kept back by lack of transport facilities for the machinery 
necessary to work them ; but there is, nevertheless, evi- 
dently much that is unsound in the present railway 
scheme. If the charge for it, as some suggest, were to 
be thrown on the gold mines, it would be as heavy a 
charge as the old bad transport was, and they would be 
no less hampered. If, as is most likely, the charge for 
the railway be thrown on the general finance of the 
colony, it will be a drain on other forms of trade, without 
in any way improving them ; in fact, during its construc- 
tion, it will absorb labour from the general trade — oil, 
rubber, and timber — and, if it extensively increases the 
gold-mining industry, it will keep the labour tied to it 
chronically, to the disadvantage of other trades. 

Lagos, our next Crown Colony, is a very rich 
possession, and under Sir Alfred Moloney, who 
discovered the use of the Kicksia Africana as a rubber 


tree, and Sir Gilbert Carter, who fostered the industry 
and opened the trade roads, sprang in a few years into 
a phenomenal prosperity. Then came the French 
aggression on its hinterland, the seizing of Nikki, which 
was one of those foci of trade routes, though possibly, as 
many have said, a non-fertile bit of country in itself. 
To give you some idea of the bound up in prosperity 
made by Lagos, the exports in 1892 were £577,083 ; in 
1895, £985,595. The main advance has been in rubber, 
which in 1 896 was exported from Lagos to the value of 
£347,721. Early in this year, however, the state of the 
Lagos trade was considered so unsatisfactory that a 
local commission to inquire into the causes of this state 
of affairs was appointed. 

The publication of the Government Trade Returns for 
1897 supported the long grumble that had been going on 
about the bad state of trade in Lagos, the imports for 
1897 showing a decrease on those of 1895 by £67,474. 
The Board of Trade Journal, quoting from the Lagos 
Weekly Record of February 28th, 1898, says, "An 
examination of the export returns affords a clue to the 
direction of such decrease. It is to be noted that 
notwithstanding that the export of rubber in 1897 shows 
an excess of £13,367 above that exported in 1895, yet 
in the aggregate of the total exports of the two years 
that of 1897 shows a decrease of £193,745 ; this is due 
to the great falling off which is perceptible in the palm 
oil and kernel trade, which together show a decrease in 
1897 of £162,580 as compared with the quantities 
exported in 1895 ; while as compared with the exports 
in 1896 the decrease amounts to £1 14,773. The returns 
show a steady and increasing decline in the exports of 
these products, for while the decrease in 1896 as 
compared with 1895 was only £47,807, the decrease 
had risen in 1897 as compared with the previous year to 
£114,773, as already intimated, which implies that there 
has been a further falling off of the trade to the extent 
of nearly £67,000. This manifest excessive diminution 
in what must be regarded as the staple commodities of 
the trade is undoubtedly a serious indication, for though 


these commodities come under the classification of jungle 
products they are not liable to exhaustion as are the 
rubber or timber industries, and hence they form the 
only reliable commodities upon which the trade must 
expand. The dislocation of the labour system in the 
hinterland is no doubt responsible in a large measure for 
the falling off in the yield of these products, while in 
many instances they have been abandoned for the more 
remunerative rubber business. But, be the circum- 
stances what they may, it is evident that there has 
been an actual decrease of trade to the extent of over 

This was the state of affairs the local committee was 
appointed to deal with. Its discussions were long and 
careful. I will not attempt to drag you through its final 
report, which a grossly ungrateful public in Lagos sniffed 
at because it merely seemed carefully to reproduce 
every one's opinion on the causes of the falling off of 
trade and to agree with it solemnly ; but, like the rest 
of the local world, it made no sweeping suggestion of 
means whereby things could be altered. Since the 
committee, however, was formed, there has been a 
greater interest taken in expenditure, healthy in its way, 
but too often ignoring the fact, that it is not so much 
the amount of money that is spent governmentally 
that constitutes waste, but the things on which it is 
expended. Large sums have been spent in Lagos, I am 
informed, on building a Government House that every 
valuable Governor ought to be paid to keep out of, so 
unhealthy is its situation, and again on bridging a lagoon 
that has no particular sound bottom to it worth 

That such forms of expenditure are not the necessary 
grooves into which a place like Lagos is driven in order 
to get rid of its money is undoubted. The local 
press at any rate indicates other grooves ; for ex- 
ample here is a cheerful little paragraph : 

" A propos of what was said in your last issue about 
the grave-diggers, there is no doubt that something 
should be done to relieve the men from the strain of 


work to which they are continuously subjected. The 
demands of a constantly increasing death rate, which 
has caused the cemeteries to be enlarged, make it 
necessary that the number of grave-diggers should be 
increased. Besides, these men are poorly paid for 
the work they do. Of the twenty grave-diggers, six 
are paid at the rate of is. per diem, and the rest at 
the rate of lod. They have no holidays, either, like 
other people. While the Government labourers, of whom 
there is a host, may skulk half their time, the hard- 
working grave-digger is at it from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
every day, Sundays included, for the Grim Reaper is 
ever busy. The keeper of the graveyards, 
also, has much to do for the paltry salary he receives. 
I would earnestly appeal to the authorities to do 
something to raise the burden of this overworked 
staff." 1 So would I, but rather in the direction of 
giving the " Grim Reaper " and the grave-diggers 
fewer people to bury. I must also give you another 
beautiful little bit of local colour, although it suggests 
further expenditure. "It is satisfactory to note 
that the Chamber of Commerce intends to take up 
the question of the swamp near the petroleum magazine. 
Since the Government made the causeway leading to 
the dead-house and cut off the tidal inflow, the upper 
portion of the swamp has been formed into a most 
noxious disease-breeding sink, into which refuse of all 
kinds is thrown, the stagnant waters and refuse com- 
bining, under the effects of the sun, to emit a most 
formidable pestilential effluvia. In the interests of 
humanity something should be done to abate this 
nuisance." 2 

However, I leave these local questions of Lagos town. 
They just present a pretty picture of the difficulties that 
surround dealing with a place that has by nature 
swamps, that must have dead houses, grave-diggers, 
and extensive cemetery accommodation, and that is 
peopled by natives who will instinctively throw refuse 

1 Lagos Standard, September 7, 1898. 

2 Lagos Weekly Reeord, September 10, 1898. 


into any hole ; with evidently a large death rate in 
the native population and a published death rate in 
whites of 153 per thousand. Let us now return to the 
higher finance. 

" The total expenditure of Lagos in 1888 amounted 
to £62,735 i$s. lid. The expenditure has risen in 
1898 to £192,760, which gives an excess of £130,025. 
The total cost of the staff in 1888 was £15,932, while 
the present cost amounts to £41,604, which is an in- 
crease of £25,672. This increase, apart from the 
augmentation in the Governor's salary, is mainly in 
respect to the following departments : — Secretariat, 
Harbour Department, Constabulary and Police, and 
the Public Works Department. The cost of working 
the secretariat has been increased by £1,074, due to 
the following additional officers : — Two assistant 
colonial secretaries, a chief clerk, and a first clerk. 
It is well known that in 1888, when the department 
cost the colony about one-half its present expenses 
as regards the European staff, the work was performed 
with efficiency and despatch ; while at present it is 
not only difficult to get business got through, but, 
what is more, if the business is not followed up with 
watchful care, it will become lost in the super- 
abundance of assistants and clerks who crowd the de- 
partment, and the practical expression of whose work 
is more discernible on the public revenue than anything 
else." 1 The Lagos Record goes on to say, " There is 
room for retrenchment in the matter of expenditure on 
account of the European official staff." I do not follow 
it here. It is room for retrenchment in mere routine 
workers, black and white, that is wanted, and the libera- 
tion of the Europeans to do work worth their risking 
their lives in West Africa for. The percentage of 
black officials, mainly clerks — excellent and faithful to 
their duties — is increasing in all our colonies there too 
rapidly ; and the existence of poorly paid but numerous 
posts under Government with a certain amount of 
prestige, is a dangerous allurement to native young men 
1 Lagos Weekly Record, August 27, 1898. 


tempting them from nobler careers, and forming them into 
a sort of wall-class between the English official and the 
main body of the native population. Take, for example, 
the number of Government servants at the Gold Coast, 
according to Sir William Maxwell, 1897 : — 








Accra 35 




Cape Coast 8 




Elmina ... 5 




An awful percentage of clerks is 311 for such a 
country, more clerks than police, only 121 less Govern- 
ment native clerks than soldiers in the army ; and you 
may depend upon it the white officials are clerking 
away, more or less, too. I always think how very apposite 
the answer of an official was to the criticism of excessive 
expenditure : " Sir, there is no reckless expenditure ; 
every J pen has to be accounted for ! " 

No, I am quite unable to agree that anything but the 
Crown Colony system is to blame, and that because it 
is engaged in administering a district with no pos- 
sibilities in it for England save commercial matters, in 
which the Crown Colony system is not well informed. 
I have only quoted these figures to show you that 
Lagos and the Gold Coast are merely keeping line with 
Sierra Leone — increasing their expenditure in the face 
of a falling trade, with a dark trade future before them, 
on account of French activity in cutting them off from 
their inland markets, and of their own mismanagement 
of the native races. 

The trade and the prosperity of West Africa depend 
on jungle products. There is no more solid reason to 
fear the extinction of West Africa's jungle products of 
oil, timber, fibre, rubber, than there is to worry about the 
extinction of our own coal-fields — probably not so 
much — for they rapidly renew themselves. Yes, even 
rubber, though that is slower at it than palm oil and 



kernel ; and at present not one-tenth part of the 
jungle products are in touch with commerce ; am 
save gold, and that to a very small extent, the mineral 
wealth of West Africa is untouched. It is not in all 
regions only titaniferous iron ; there are silver, lead, cop- 
per, antimony, quicksilver, and tin ores there unexploited, 
and which it would not be advisable to attempt to 
exploit until the so-called labour problem is solved. 
This problem is really that of the co-operation for 
mutual benefit of the African and the Englishman. 
In the solution of this problem alone lies the success 
of England in West Africa, not of England herself, for 
England could survive the loss of West Africa whole, 
though doing so would cost her dear alike in honour 
and in profit. The Crown Colony system which now 
represents England in West Africa will never give 
this solution. It necessarily destroys native society, 
that is to say, it disorganises it, and has not in it the 
power to reorganise. As I have already endeavoured 
to show, English influence in West Africa, as repre- 
sented by the Crown Colony system, consists of three 
separate classes of Englishmen with no common object 
of interest, and is not a thing capable of organising 
so difficult a region. All these three classes, be it 
granted, represents things needed for the organisation of 
a State. No State can exist without having the 
governmental, the religious, and the mercantile factors, 
working together in it ; but in West Africa these re- 
presentatives of the English State are things apart 
and opposed to each other, and do not constitute a 
State. You can no more expect to get the function 
of a State, good government, out of these three dis- 
connected classes of Englishmen in Africa, than 
to know the hour of day from the parts of a 
watch before they were put together. 

You will see I have humbly attempted to place this 
affair before you from no sensational point of view, but 
from the commercial one — the value of West Africa to 
England's commerce — and have attempted to show you 


how this is suffering from the adherence of England to a 
form of government that is essentially un-English. I 
have made no attack on the form of government for such 
regions formulated in England's more intellectual though 
earlier period of Elizabeth, the Chartered Company- 
system as represented by the Royal Niger Company. 
I have neither shares in, nor reason to attack the Royal 
Niger Company, which has in a few years, and during the 
period of the hottest French enterprise, acquired a terri- 
tory in West Africa immensely greater than the territory 
acquired during centuries under the Crown Colony 
system ; it has also fought its necessary wars with 
energy and despatch, and no call upon Imperial re- 
sources ; it has not only paid its way, but paid its 
shareholders their 6 per cent., and its bitterest enemies 
say darkly, far more. I know from my knowledge of 
West Africa that this can only have been effected by its 
wise native policy. I know that this policy owes its 
wisdom and its success to one man, Sir George Taubman- 
Goldie, a man who, had he been under the Crown Colony 
system, could have done no more than other men have 
done who have been Governors under it ; but, not being 
under it, the territories he won for England have not been 
subjected to the jerky amateur policy of those which are 
under the Crown Colony system. For nearly twenty 
years the natives under the Royal Niger Company have 
had the firm, wise, sympathetic friendship of a great 
Englishman, who understood them, and knew them 
personally. It is the continuous influence of one great 
Englishman unhampered by non-expert control, that 
has caused England's exceedingly strange success in the 
Niger ; coupled with the identity of trade and govern- 
mental interest, and the encouragement of religion given 
by the constitution and administration of the Niger 
Company. This is a thing not given by all Chartered 
Companies ; indeed, I think I am right in saying that 
the Niger and the North Borneo Companies stand alone 
in controlling territories that have been essentially 
trading during recent years. This association of trade 
and government is, to my mind, an absolutely necessary 

X 2 


restraint on the Charter Company form of government ; l 
but there is another element you must have to justify 
Charters, and that is that they are in the hands of an 
Englishman of the old type. 

I am perfectly aware that the natives of Lagos and 
other Crown Colonies in West Africa are, and have long 
been, anxious for the Chartered Company of the Niger 
to be taken over by the Government, as they patheti- 
cally and frankly say, " so that now the trade in their 
own district is so bad, it may get a stimulus by a freer 
trade in the Niger," and the native traders not connected 
with the Company may rush in ; while officials in the 
Crown Colonies have been equally anxious, as they say 
with frankness no less pathetic, so that they may have 
chances of higher appointments. I am equally aware 
that the merchants of England not connected with the 
Niger Company, which is really an association of African 
merchants, desire its downfall ; yet they all perfectly 
well know, though they do not choose to advertise the 
fact, that three months Crown Colony form of govern- 
ment in the Niger territories will bring war, far greater 
and more destructive than any war we have yet had in 
West Africa, and will end in the formation of a debt far 
greater than any debt we now have in West Africa, 
because of the greater extent of territory and the greater 
power of the native States, now living peacefully enough 
under England, but not under England as misrepre- 
sented by the Crown Colony system. I am not saying 
that Chartered Companies are good ; I am only saying 
they are better than the Crown Colony plan ; and that if 
the Crown Colony system is substituted for the Char- 
tered Company, which is directly a trading Company, 
England will have to pay a very heavy bill. There 
would be, of course, a temporary spurt in trade, but it 
would be a flash in the pan, and in the end, an end that 
would come in a few years' time, the British taxpayer 
would be cursing West Africa at large, and the Niger 

1 See introduction to Folk Lore of the Fjort. R. E. Dennett. 
David Nutt, 1898, 


territories in particular. Personally, I entirely fail to 
see why England should be tied to either of these 
plans, the Crown Colony or the Chartered Company, 
for governing tropical regions. Have we quite run 
out of constructive ability in Statecraft? Is it not 
possible to formulate some new plan to mark the 
age of Victoria ? 



Wherein this student, realising as usual, when too late, that the 
environment of such opinions as are expressed above is boiling 
hot water, calls to memory the excellent saying, " As well be 
hung for a sheep as a lamb," and goes on. 

I HAVE no intention, however, of starting a sort of open- 
air steam laundry for West African washing. I have 
only gone into the unsatisfactory-to-all-parties-concerned 
state of affairs there not with the hope, but with the 
desire, that things may be improved and further disgrace 
avoided. It would be no good my merely stating that, 
if England wishes to make her possessions there morally 
and commercially pay her for the loss of life that holding 
them entails, she must abolish her present policy of 
amateur experiments backed by good intentions, for you 
would naturally not pay the least attention to a bald 
statement made by merely me. So I have had to place 
before you the opinions of others who are more worthy 
of your attention. I must however for myself disclaim 
any right to be regarded as the mouthpiece of any party 
concerned, though Major Lugard has done me the 
honour to place me amongst the Liverpool merchants. 
I can claim no right to speak as one of them. I should 
be only too glad if I had this honour, but I have not. 
There was early this year a distressing split between 
Liverpool and myself — whom I am aware they call 

chap, xvi A FAMILY QUARREL 311 

behind my back " Our Aunt" — and I know they regard 
me as a vexing, if even a valued, form of relative. 

This split, I may say (remembering Mr. Mark 
Twain's axiom, that people always like to know what a 
row is about), arose from my frank admiration of both 
the Royal Niger Company and France, neither of which 
Liverpool at that time regarded as worthy of even the 
admiration of the most insignificant ; so its Journal of 
Commerce went for me. The natural sweetness of my 
disposition is most clearly visible to the naked eye 
when I am quietly having my own way, so naturally I 
went for its Journal of Commerce. Providentially no 
one outside saw this deplorable family row, and Mr. 
John Holt put a stop to it by saying to me, " Say what 
you like, you cannot please all of us ; " had it not been 
for this I should not have written another line on the 
maladministration of West Africa beyond saying, " Call 
that Crown Colony system you are working there a 
Government ! England, at your age, you ought to be 
ashamed of yourself!" But you see, as things are, I 
am not speaking for any one, only off on a little lone 
fight of my own against a state of affairs which I regard 
as a disgrace to my country. J 

Well but, you may say, after all what you have said 
points to nothing disgraceful. You have expressly said 
that there is no corruption in the government there, and 
the rest of the things — the change of policy arising from 
the necessity for white men to come home at the least 
every twelve months, the waste of money necessary to 
local exigencies, and the fact that officers and gentlemen 
cannot be expected to understand and look after what 
one might call domestic expenses — may be things 
unavoidable and peculiar to the climate. To this I can 
only say, Given the climate, why do you persist in 
ignoring the solid mass of expert knowledge of the 
region which is in the hands of the mercantile party, and 
go on working your Governors from a non-expert base ? 
You have in England an unused but great mass of 
knowledge among men of all classes who have personally 
dealt with West Africa — yet you do not work from that, 


organise it, and place it at the service of the brand new 
Governors who go out ; far from it. I know hardly any- 
more pathetic sight than the new official suddenly 
appointed to West Africa buzzing round trying to find 
out M what the place is really like, you know." I know 
personally one of the greatest of our Governors who have 
been down there, a man with iron determination and 
courage, who was not content with the information 
derivable from a list of requisites for a tropical climate, 
the shorter Hausa grammar and a nice cherry-covered 
little work on diseases — the usual fillets with which 
England binds the brows of her Sacrifices to the Coast — 
but went and read about West Africa, all by himself, 
alone in the British Museum. He was a success, but 
still he always declares that the only book he found 
about this particular part was a work by a Belgian, with 
a frontispiece depicting the author, on an awful river, in 
the act as per inscription, of shouting, " Row on, brave 
men of Kru ! " which, as subsequent knowledge showed 
him that bravery was not one of the main qualities of 
the Kru men, shook him up about all his British 
Museum education. So in the end he, like the rest, had 
to learn for himself, out there. Of course, if the 
Governors were carefully pegged down to a West 
African place and lived long enough, and were not by 
nature faddists, doubtless they would learn, and in the 
course of a few years things would go well ; but they are 
not pegged down. No sooner does one of them begin to 
know about the country he is in charge of than off he is 
whisked and deposited again, in a brand new region for 
which West Africa has not been a fitting introduction. 

Then, as for the domestic finance, why expect officers 
and lawyers, doctors and gentlemen from clubland to 
manage fiscal matters ? Of course they naturally don't 
know about trade affairs, or whether the Public Works 
Department is spending money, or merely wasting it. 
You require professional men in West Africa, but not to 
do half the work they are now engaged on in connection 
with red tape and things they do not understand. Of 
course, errors of this kind may be merely Folly, you may 


have plenty more men as good as these to replace them 
with, so it may matter more to their relations than to 
England if they are wasted alike in life and death, and 
you are so rich that the gradual extinction of your 
tropical trade will not matter to your generation. But 
as a necessary consequent to this amateurism, or young 
gentlemen's academy system, the Crown Colony system, //, 
there is disgrace in the injustice to and disintegration of -' 
the native races it deals with. 

Now when I say England is behaving badly to the 
African, I beg you not to think that the philanthropic 
party has increased. I come of a generation of Danes 
who when the sun went down on the Wulpensand were 
the men to make light enough to fight by with their 
Morning Stars ; and who, later on, were soldiers in the 
Low Countries and slave owners in the West Indies, and 
I am proud of my ancestors ; for whatever else they 
were, they were not humbugs ; and the generation that 
is round me now seems to me in its utterances at any 
rate tainted with humbug. I own that I hate the 
humbug in England's policy towards weaker races for 
the sake of all the misery on white and black it 
brings ; and I think as I see you wasting lives and 
money, sowing debt and difficulties all over West Africa 
by a hut tax war in Sierra Leone, fighting for the sake 
of getting a few shillings you have no right to what- 
soever out of the African — who are you that you 
should point your finger in scorn at my tribe ? I, as 
one of that tribe, blush for you, from the basis that 
you are a humbug and not scientific, which I presume 
you will agree is not the same thing as my being a 

I had the honour of meeting in West Africa an English 
officer who had previously been doing some fighting in 
South Africa. He said he " didn't like being a butter- 
man's nigger butcher." " Oh ! you're all right here 
then," I said ; " you're out now for Exeter Hall, the 
plane of civilisation, the plough, and the piano." I will 
not report his remarks further ; likely enough it was 
the mosquitoes that made him say things, and of 


course I knew with him, as I know with you, butchery 
of any sort is not to your liking, though war when it's 
wanted is ; the distinction I draw between them is a 
hard and fast one. There is just the same difference 
to my mind between an unnecessary war on an un- 
armed race and a necessary war on the same race, as 
there is between killing game that you want to support 
yourself with or game that is destructive to your in- 
terests, and on the other hand the killing of game 
just to say that you have done it. This will seem a 
deplorably low view to take, but it is one supported 
by our history. We have killed down native races in 
Australasia and America, and it is no use slurring 
over the fact that we have profited by so doing. This 
argument, however, cannot be used in favour of killing 
down the African in tropical Africa, more particularly 
in Western Tropical Africa. If you were to-morrow to 
kill every native there, what use would the country be 
to you? No one else but the native can work its 
resources ; you cannot live in it and colonise it. It 
would therefore be only an extremely interesting place 
for the zoologist, geologist, mineralogist, &c, but a place 
of no good to any one else in England. 

This view, however, of the profit derivable from and 
justifying war you will refuse to discuss ; stating that 
such profit in your wars you do not seek ; that they 
have been made for the benefit of the African himself, 
to free him from his native oppressors in the way of 
tyrannical chiefs and bloody superstitions, and to ele- 
vate him in the plane of civilisation. That this has 
been the intention of our West African wars up to the 
Sierra Leone war, which was forced on you for fiscal 
reasons, I have no doubt : but that any of them ad- 
vanced you in your mission to elevate the African, I 
should hesitate to say. I beg to refer you to Dr. 
Freeman's opinions on the Ashantee wars on this 
point, 1 but for myself I should say that the blame of 
the failure of these wars to effect their desired end 
has been due to the want of power to re-organise 

1 Ashantee andjaman, Freeman (Constable and Co., 1898). 



native society after a war; for example, had the 1873 
Ashantee war been followed by the taking over of 
Ashantee and the strong handling of it, there would 
not have been an 1895 Ashantee war; or, to take it 
the other way, if you had followed up the battle of 
Katamansu in 1827, you need not have had an 1874 
war even. Dr. Freeman holds, that if you had let the 
Ashantis have a seaport and generally behaved fairly 
reasonably, you need hardly have had Ashantee wars at 
all. But, however this may be, I think that a good 
many of the West African wars of the past ten years 
have been the result of the humbug of the previous 
sixty, during which we have proclaimed that we are 
only in Africa for peaceful reasons of commerce, and 
religion, and education, not with any desire for the 
African's land or property : that, of course, it is not 
possible for us to extend our friendship or our toleration 
to people who go in for cannibalism, slave-raiding, or 
human sacrifices, but apart from these matters we have 
no desire to meddle with African domestic affairs, or 
take away their land. This, I own, I believe to have 
honestly been our intention, and to be our intention still, 
but with our stiff Crown Colony system of representing 
ourselves to the African, this intention has been and will 
be impossible to carry out, because between the true 
spirit of England and the spirit of Africa it interposes 
a distorting medium. It is, remember, not composed of 
Englishmen alone, it includes educated natives, and yet 
it knows the true native only through interpreters. 

But why call this humbug? you say. Well, the 
present policy in Africa makes it look so. Frankly, I 
do not see how you could work your original policy out 
unless it were in the hands of extremely expert men, 
patient and powerful at that. Too many times in old 
days have you allowed white men to be bullied, to give 
the African the idea that you, as a nation, meant to 
have your way. Too many times have you allowed 
them to violate parts of their treaties under your nose, 
until they got out of the way of thinking you would 
hold them to their treaties at all, and then suddenly 


^ .1 


down you came on them, not only holding them to 
their side of the treaties, but not holding to your own, 
imposing on them restrictions and domestic interference 
which those treaties made no mention of at all. I have 
before me now copies of treaties with chiefs in the 
hinterland of our Crown Colonies, wherein there is not 
even the anti-slavery clause — treaties merely of friend- 
ship and trade, with the undertaking on the native 
chief's part to hand over no part or right in his terri- 
tories to a foreign power without English Government 
consent. Yet, in the districts we hold from the natives 
under such treaties, we are contemplating direct taxation, 
which to the African means the confiscation of the 
property taxed. We have, in fact, by our previous 
policy placed ourselves to the African with whom we 
have made treaties, in the position of a friend. " Big 
friend," it is true, but not conqueror or owner. Our de- 
parture now from the " big friend " attitude into the 
position of owner, hurts his feelings very much ; and 
coupled with the feeling that he cannot get at England, 
who used to talk so nicely to him, and whom he did 
his best to please, as far as local circumstances and his 
limited power would allow, by giving up customs she had 
an incomprehensible aversion to, it causes the African 
chief to say " God is up," by which I expect he means 
the Devil, and give way to war, or sickness, or distrac- 
tion, or a wild, hopeless, helpless, combination of all 
three ; and then, poor fellow, when he is only naturally 
suffering from the dazzles your West African policy 
would give to an iron post, you go about sagely refer- 
ring to " a general antipathy to civilisation among the 
natives of West Africa," "anti-white-man's leagues," 
" horrible secret societies," and such like figments of your 
imagination ; and likely enough throw in as a dash for 
top the statement that the chief is " a drunken slave- 
raider," which as the captain of the late s.s. Sparrow 
would say, " It may be so, and, again, it mayn't." Any- 
how it seems to occur to you as an argument only after 
the war is begun, though you have known the man 
some years ; and it has not been the ostensible reason 


for any West African war save those in the Niger 
Company's territories, which run far enough inland to 
touch the slave-raiding zone, and which are entirely ex- 
cluded from my arguments because they have been in 
the hands of experts on West Africa in war-making and 
in war-healing. 

Our past wars in West Africa, I mean all our wars 
prior to the hut-tax war, have been wars in order to sup- 
press human sacrifice, to protect one tribe from the 
aggression of another, and to prevent the stopping of 
trade by middlemen tribes. These things are things worth 
fighting for. The necessity we have been under to fight 
them has largely arisen from our ancestors shirking a 
little firm-handedness in their generation. 

There is very little doubt that, owing to a want of 
reconstruction after destruction, these wars have not been 
worth to the Empire the loss of life and money they 
have cost ; but this is nothing against us as fighters nor 
any real disgrace to our honour, but merely a slur on our 
intellectual powers in the direction of statecraft. They 
are wars of a totally different character to those ofthe\ 
hut-tax kind, which arise from aggressions on native pro- 
perty ; the only thing in common between them is the / 
strain of poor statecraft. This imperfection, however, 
exists to a far greater extent in hut-tax war, for to it we | 
owe that general feeling of dislike to the advance of 
civilisation you now hear referred to. That, to a certain 
extent, this dislike already exists as the necessary out- 
come of our policy of late years, and that it will increase 
yearly, I fear there is very little doubt. It is the toxin 
produced by the microbe. It is the consequence of our 
attempt to introduce direct taxation, which seems to 
me to be an affair identical with your greased cartridges 
for India. Doubtless, such people ought not to object 
to greased cartridges ; but, doubtless, such people as we 
are ought not to give them, and commit, over again, a 
worthless blunder, with no bad intention be it granted, but 
with no common sense. 

It has been said that the Sierra Leone hut-tax war is 
" a little Indian mutiny " ; those who have said it do not 


seem to have known how true the statement is, for these 
attacks on property in the form of direct taxation are, to 
the African, treachery on the part of England, who, from 
the first, has kept on assuring the African that she does 
not mean to take his country from him, and then, as 
soon as she is strong enough, in his eyes, starts deliber- 
ately doing it. When you once get between two races 
the feeling of treachery, the face of their relationship is 
altered for ever, altered in a way that no wholesome war, 
no brutality of individuals, can alter. Black and white 
men for ever after a national breach of faith tax each other 
with treachery and never really trust each other again. 

The African, however, must not be confounded with 
the Indian. Externally, in his habits he is in a lower 
culture state ; he has no fanatical religion that really 
resents the incursions of other religions on his mind ; 
Fetish can live in and among all sorts and kinds of 
religions without quarrelling with them in the least, 
grievously as they quarrel with Fetish ; he has no 
written literature to keep before his eyes a glorious and 
mythical past, which, getting mixed up with his religious 
ideas, is liable in the Indian to make him take at times 
lobster-like backward springs in the direction of that 
past, though it was never there, and he would not have 
relished it if it had been. Nevertheless, the true negro 
is, I believe, by far the better man than the Asiatic ; 
he is physically superior, and he is more like an Eng- 
lishman than the Asiatic ; he is a logical, practical man, 
with feelings that are a credit to him, and are particu- 
larly strong in the direction of property ; he has a way 
of thinking he has rights, whether he likes to use them 
or no, and will fight for them when he is driven to it. 
Fight you for a religious idea the African will not. He 
is not the stuff you make martyrs out of, nor does he 
desire to shake off the shackles of the flesh and swoon 
into Nirvana ; and although he will sit under a tree to 
any extent, provided he gets enough to eat and a little 
tobacco, he won't sit under trees on iron spikes, or hold 
a leg up all the time, or fakirise in any fashion for the 
benefit of his soul or yours. His make of mind is 


exceedingly like the make of mind of thousands of 
Englishmen of the stand-no-nonsense, Englishman's- 
house-is-his-castle type. Yet, withal, a law-abiding man, 
loving a live lord, holding loudly that women should be 
kept in their place, yet often grievously henpecked by 
his wives, and little better than a slave to his mother, 
whom he loves with a love he gives to none other. This 
love of his mother is so dominant a factor in his life that 
it must be taken into consideration in attempting to 
understand. the true negro. Concerning it I can do no 
better than give you the Reverend Leighton Wilson's 
words ; for this great missionary knew, as probably none 
since have known, the true negro, having laboured for 
many years amongst the most unaltered negro tribes — 
the Grain Coast tribes — and his words are as true to-day 
of the unaltered negro as on the day he wrote them 
thirty-eight years ago, and Leighton Wilson, mind you, 
was no blind admirer of the African. 

" Whatever other estimate we may form of the African, 
we may not doubt his love for his mother. Her name, 
whether dead or alive, is always on his lips and in his 
heart. She is the first being he thinks of when awaken- 
ing from his slumbers and the last he remembers when 
closing his eyes in sleep ; to her he confides secrets which 
he would reveal to no other human being on the face of 
the earth. He cares for no one else in time of sickness, 
she alone must prepare his food, administer his medicine, 
perform his ablutions, and spread his mat for him. He 
flies to her in the hour of his distress, for he well knows 
if all the rest of the world turn against him she will be 
steadfast in her love, whether he be right or wrong. 

"If there be any cause which justifies a man in using 
violence towards one of his fellow men it would be to 
resent an insult offered to his mother. More fights are 
occasioned among boys by hearing something said in 
disparagement of their mothers than all other causes put 
together. It is a common saying among them, if a 
man's mother and his wife are both on the point of 
being drowned, and he can save only one of them, he 
must save his mother, for the avowed reason if the wife 


is lost he may marry another, but he will never find a 
second mother." 1 

Among the tribes of whom Wilson is speaking above, 
it is the man's true mother. Among the Niger Delta 
tribes it is often the adopted mother, the woman who has 
taken him when, as a child, he has been left motherless, 
or, if he is a boughten child, the woman who has taken 
care of him. Among both, and throughout all the bush- 
men tribes in West Africa, however, this deep affection 
is the same ; next to the mother comes the sister to the 
African, and this matter has a bearing politically. 

There is little doubt that there exists a distrustful 
feeling towards white culture. Up to our attempt to 
enforce direct taxation it was only a distrustful feeling 
which a few years' careful, honest handling would have 
disposed of. Since our attempt there is no doubt there 
is something approaching a panicky terror of white 
civilisation in all the native aristocracies and property 
owners. It is not, I repeat, to be attributed to Fetish 
priests. Certainly, on the whole, it is not attributable 
to a dislike of European customs or costumes; it is the 
reasonable dislike to being dispossessed alike of power 
and property in what they regard as their own country. 
A considerable factor in this matter is undoubtedly the 
influence of the women — the mothers of Africa. Just 
as your African man is the normal man, so is your 
African woman the normal woman. I openly own that 
if I have a soft spot in my feelings it is towards African 
women ; and the close contact I have lived in with them 
has given rise to this, and, I venture to think, made me 
understand them. I know they have their faults. For 
one thing they are not so religiously minded as the men. 
I have met many African men who were philosophers, 
thinking in the terms of Fetish, but never a woman so 
doing. Be it granted that on the whole they know 
more about the details of Fetish procedure than the men 
do. Yet though frightened of them all, a blind faith in 
any mortal Ju Ju they do not possess. Your African 
lady is artful with them, not philosophic, possibly because 
1 Western Africa^ Wilson, 1856, p. ti6. 


she has other things to do — what with attending to the 

children, the farm, and the market — than go mooning \ 
about as those men can. For another thing they go 
in for husband poisoning in a way I am unable to J 
approve of. 

Well, it may be interesting to inquire into the reasons 
that make the West African woman a factor against 
white civilisation. These reasons are — firstly, that she 
does not know practically anything about it ; and, 
secondly, she has the normal feminine dislike to inno- 
vations. Missionary and other forms of white education 
have not been given to the African women to anything 
like the same extent that they have been given to the 
men. I do not say that there are not any African women 
who are not thoroughly educated in white education, for 
there are, and they can compare very favourably from 
the standpoint of their education with our normal women ; 
but these have, I think I may safely say, been the 
daughters of educated African men, or have been the 
women who have been immediately attached to some 
mission station. I have no hesitation in saying that, con- 
sidering the very little attention that has been given to 
the white education of the African women, they give 
evidence of an ability in due keeping with that of the 
African men. But all I mean to say is, that our white 
culture has not had a grasp over the womankind of 
Africa that can compare with that it has had over the 
men ; for one woman who has been brought home to 
England and educated in our schools, and who has been 
surrounded by English culture, &c, there are 500 men. 
But into the possibilities of the African woman in the 
white education department I do not mean to go ; I am 
getting into a snaggy channel by speaking on woman at 
all. It is to the mass of African women, untouched by 
white culture, but with an enormous influence over 
their sons and brothers that I am now referring as a 
factor in the dislike to the advance of white civilisation ; 
and I have said they do not like it because, for one 
thing, they do not know it ; that is to say, they do not 
know it from the inside and at its best, but only from 



the outside. Viewed from the outside in West Africa 
white civilisation, to a shrewd mind like hers, is an evil 
thing for her boys and girls. She sees it taking away 
from them the restraints of their native culture, and in 
all too many cases leading them into a life of dissipation, 
disgrace, and decay ; or, if it does not do this, yet 
separating the men from their people. 

The whole of this affair requires a whole mass of 
elaborate explanations to place it fairly before you, but 
I will merely sketch the leading points now. (i) The 
law of mutterrecht makes the tie between the mother and 
the children far closer than that between the father and 
them : white culture reverses this, she does not like 
that. (2) Between husband and wife there is no 
community in goods under native law ; each keeps his 
and her separate estate. White culture says the husband 
shall endow his wife with all his worldly goods ; this she 
knows usually means, that if he has any he does not 
endow her with them, but whether he has or has not he 
endows himself with hers as far as any law permits. 
Similarly he does not like it either. These two white 
culture things, saddling him with the support of the 
children and endowing his wife with all his property, 
presents a repulsive situation to the logical African. 
Moreover, white culture expects him to think more of his 
wife and children than he does of his mother and sisters, 
which to the uncultured African is absurd. 

Then again both he and his mother see the fearful 
effects of white culture on the young women, who cannot 
be prevented in districts under white control from going 
down to the coast towns and to the Devil : neither 
he nor the respectable old ladies of his tribe approve 
of this. Then again they know that the young men of 
their people who have thoroughly allied themselves to 
white culture look down on their relations in the African 
culture state. They call the ancestors of their tribe 
" polygamists," as if it were a swear- word, though they 
are a thousand times worse than polygamists them- 
selves : and they are ashamed of their mothers. It is 
a whole seething mass of stuff all through, and I would 


not mention it were it not that it is a factor in the 
formation of anti-white-culture opinion among the mass 
of the West Africans, and that it causes your West 
African bush chief to listen to the old woman whom 
you may see crouching behind him, or you may not see 
at all, but who is with him all the same, when she says, 
" Do not listen to the white man, it is bad for you." He 
knows that the interpreter talking to him for the white 
man may be a boughten man, paid to advertise the 
advantages of white ways ; and he knows that the old 
woman, his mother, cannot be bought where his interest 
is concerned : so he listens to her, and she distrusts 
white ways. 

I am aware that there is now in West Africa a 
handful of Africans who have mastered white culture, 
who know it too well to misunderstand the inner spirit 
of it, who are men too true to have let it cut them 
off in either love or sympathy from Africa — men that, 
had England another system that would allow her to 
see them as they are, would be of greater use to her 
and Africa than they now are ; but I will not name 
them : I fight a lone fight, and wish to mix no man, 
white or black, up in it, or my heretical opinions. That 
handful of African men are now fighting a hard enough 
fight to prevent the distracted, uninformed Africans 
from rising against what looks so like white treachery, 
though it is only white want of knowledge ; and also 
against those " water flies " who are neither Africans 
nor Europeans, but who are the curse of the Coast — 
the men who mislead the white man and betray the 

Next to this there is another factor almost equally 
powerful, with which I presume you cannot sympathise, 
and which I should make a mess of if I trusted myself 
to explain. Therefore I call in the aid of a better 
writer, speaking on another race, but talking of the 
identical same thing. "In these days the boot of the 
ubiquitous white man leaves its mark on all the fair 
places of the earth, and scores thereon an even more 
gigantic track than that which affrighted Robinson 

Y 2 


Crusoe in his solitude. It crushes down the forest, 
beats out roads, strides across the rivers, kicks down 
native institutions, and generally tramples on the 
growths of natives and the works of primitive man, 
reducing all things to that dead level of conventionality 
which we call civilisation. 

" Incidentally it stamps out much of what is best in 
the customs and characteristics of the native races 
against which it brushes ; and though it relieves him of 
many things which hurt or oppressed him ere it came, 
it injures him morally almost as much as it benefits him 
materially. We who are white men admire our work 
not a little — which is natural, and many are found 
willing to wear out their souls in efforts to convert the 
thirteenth century into the nineteenth in a score of years. 
The natives, who for the most part are frank Vandals, 
also admire efforts of which they are aware that they are 
themselves incapable, and even the laudator temporis 
acti has his mouth stopped by the cheap and often 
tawdry luxury which the coming of the white man has 
placed within his reach. So effectually has the heel 
of the white man been ground into the face of Perak 
and Selangor, that these native states are now only 
nominally what their name implies. The white popu- 
lation outnumbers the people of the land in most 
of the principal districts, and it is possible for a 
European to spend weeks in either of these states with- 
out coming into contact with any Asiatics save those 
who wait at table, clean his shirts, or drive his cab. It 
is possible, I am told, for a European to spend years 
in Perak or Selangor without acquiring any profound 
knowledge of the natives, of the country or of the 
language which is their special medium. This being so, 
most of the white men who live in the protected native 
states are somewhat apt to disregard the effect their 
actions have upon the natives, and labour under the 
common European inability to view natives from a 
native standpoint. Moreover, we have become accus- 
tomed to existing conditions ; and thus it is that few 
perhaps realise the precise nature of the work which the 


British in the Peninsula have set themselves to accom- 
plish. What we are really attempting, however, is 
nothing less than to crush into twenty years the revolu- 
tion in facts and in ideas, which, even in energetic 
Europe, six long centuries have been needed to accom- 
plish. No one will, of course, be found to dispute that 
the strides made in our knowledge of the art of govern- 
ment since the thirteenth century are prodigious and 
vast, nor that the general condition of the people of 
Europe has been immensely improved since that day ; 
but nevertheless one cannot but sympathise with the 
Malays who are suddenly and violently translated from 
the point to which they have attained in the natural 
development of their race, and are required to live up 
to the standard of a people who are six centuries in 
advance of them in national progress. If a plant is 
made to blossom or bear fruit three months before 
its time it is regarded as a triumph of the gardener's 
art ; but what then are we to say of this huge moral 
forcing system we call ' protection ' ? Forced plants we 
know suffer in the process ; and the Malay, whose 
proper place is amidst the conditions of the thirteenth 
century, is apt to become morally weak and seedy and 
lose something of his robust self respect when he is 
forced to bear nineteenth century fruit." 2 

Now, the above represents the state of affairs caused 
by the clash of different culture levels in the true Negro 
States, as well as it does in the Malay. These two sets 
of men, widely different in breed, have, from the many 
points of agreement in their State-form, evidently both 
arrived in our thirteenth century. The African peoples 
in the Central East, and East, and South, except where 
they are true Negroes, have not arrived in the thirteenth 
century, or, to put it in other words, the True Negro 
stem in Africa has arrived at a political state akin to that 
of our own thirteenth century, whereas the Bantu 
stem has not ; this point, however, I need not enter into 

There are, of course, local differences between the 
1 East Coast Etchings. H. Clifford, Singapore, 1896. 


Malay Peninsula and West Africa, but the main 
characteristics as regards the State-form among the 
natives are singularly alike. They are both what 
Mr. Clifford aptly likens to our own European State- 
form in the thirteenth century ; and the effect of the 
white culture on the morals of the natives is also alike. 
The main difference between them results from the 
Malay Peninsula being but a narrow strip of land and 
thinly peopled, compared to the densely populated 
section of a continent we call West Africa. Therefore, 
although the Malay in his native state is a superior 
individual warrior to the West African, yet there are not 
so many of him ; and as he is less guarded from whites 
by a pestilential climate, his resistance to the white 
culture of the nineteenth century is inferior to the 
resistance which the West African can give. 

The destruction of what is good in the thirteenth 
century culture level, and the fact that when the 
nineteenth century has had its way the main result is 
seedy demoralised natives, is the thing that must make 
all thinking men wonder if, after all, such work is from 
a high moral point of view worth the nineteenth century 
doing. I so often think when I hear the progress of 
civilisation, our duty towards the lower races, &c, talked 
of, as if those words were in themselves Ju Ju, of that 
improving fable of the kind-hearted she-elephant, who, 
while out walking one day, inadvertently trod upon a 
partridge and killed it, and observing close at hand the 
bird's nest full of callow fledglings, dropped a tear, and 
saying " I have the feelings of a mother myself/' sat down 
upon the brood. This is precisely what England 
representing the nineteenth century is doing in 
thirteenth century West Africa. She destroys the 
guardian institution, drops a tear and sits upon the brood 
with motherly intentions ; and pesky warm sitting she 
finds it, what with the nature of the brood and the 
surrounding climate, let alone the expense of it. And 
what profit she is going to get out of such proceedings 
there, I own I don't know. " Ah ! " you say, " yes, it is 
sad, but it is inevitable." I do not think it is inevitable, 


unless you have no intellectual constructive Statecraft, 
and are merely in that line an automaton. If you will 
try Science, all the evils of the clash between the two 
culture periods could be avoided, and you could assist 
these West Africans in their thirteenth century state to 
rise into their nineteenth century state without their 
having the hard fight for it that you yourself had. This 
would be a grand humanitarian bit of work ; by doing it 
you would raise a monument before God to the honour 
of England such as no nation has ever yet raised to Him 
on earth. 

There is absolutely no perceivable sound reason why 
you should not do it if you will try Science and master 
the knowledge of the nature of the native and his 
country. The knowledge of native laws, religion, 
institutions, and state- form would give you the know- 
ledge of what is good in these things, so that you might 
develop and encourage them ; and the West African, 
having reached a thirteenth century state, has institutions 
and laws which with a strengthening from the European 
hand would, by their operation now, stamp out the evil 
that exists under the native state. What you are doing 
now, however, is the direct contrary to this : you are 
destroying the good portion and thereby allowing what 
is evil, or imperfect, in it as in all things human, to 
flourish under your protection far more rankly than 
under the purely native thirteenth century state-form, 
with Fetish as a state religion, it could possibly do. 

I know, however, there is one great objection to your 
taking up a different line towards native races to that 
which you are at present following. It is one of those 
strange things that are in men's minds almost without 
their knowing they are there, yet which, nevertheless, 
rule them. This is the idea that those Africans are, as 
one party would say, steeped in sin, or, as another party 
would say, a lower or degraded race. While you think 
these things, you must act as you are acting. They 
really are the same idea in different clothes. They both 
presuppose all mankind to have sprung from a single 
pair of human beings, and the condition of a race 


to-day therefore to be to its own credit or blame. I re- 
member one day in Cameroons coming across a young 
African lady, of the age of twelve, who I knew was 
enjoying the advantages of white tuition at a school. 
So, in order to open up conversation, I asked her what 
she had been learning. " Ebberyting," she observed 
with a genial smile. I asked her then what she knew, 
so as to approach the subject from a different stand- 
point for purposes of comparison. " Ebberyting," she 
said. This hurt my vanity, for though I am a good 
deal more than twelve years of age, I am far below this 
state of knowledge ; so I said, " Well, my dear, and if 
you do, you're the person I have long wished to meet, 
for you can tell me why you are black." " Oh yes," 
she said, with a perfect beam of satisfaction, "one of 
my pa's pa's saw dem Patriark Noah wivout his clothes." 
I handed over to her a crimson silk necktie that I was 
wearing, and slunk away, humbled by superior know- 
ledge. This, of course, was the result of white training 
direct on the African mind ; the story which you will 
often be told to account for the blackness and whiteness 
of men by Africans who have not been in direct 
touch with European, but who have been in touch with 
Mohammedan, tradition — which in the main has the 
same Semitic source — is that when Cain killed Abel, he 
was horrified at himself, and terrified of God ; and so 
he carried the body away from beside the altar where 
it lay, and carried it about for years trying to hide it, 
but not knowing how, growing white the while with 
the horror and the fear ; until one day he saw a crow 
scratching a hole in the desert sand, and it struck him 
that if he made a hole in the sand and put the body 
in, he could hide it from God, so he did ; but all his 
children were white, and from Cain came the white 
races, while Abel's children are black, as all men were 
before the first murder. The present way of contem- 
plating different races, though expressed in finer 
language, is practically identical with these ; not only 
the religious view, but the view of the suburban 
agnostic. The religious European cannot avoid re- 



garding the races in a different and inferior culture state 
to his own as more deeply steeped in sin than himself, 
and the suburban agnostic regards them as "degraded" I 
or " retarded " either by environment, or microbes, or / 
both. / 

I openly and honestly own I sincerely detest touching 
on this race question. For one thing, Science has not 
finished with it ; for another, it belongs to a group of 
subjects of enormous magnitude, upon which I have 
no opinion, but merely feelings, and those of a nature 
which I am informed by superior people would barely be 
a credit to a cave man of the palaeolithic period. My 
feelings classify the world's inhabitants into Englishmen, 
by which I mean Teutons at large, Foreigners, and Blacks, 
whom I subdivide into two classes, English Blacks and 
Foreign Blacks. English Blacks are Africans. Foreign 
Blacks are Indians, Chinese and the rest. Of course, 
everything that is not Teutonic is, to put it mildly, not 
up to what is ; and equally, of course, I feel more at home 
with, and hokl Jn greater esteem the English Black: a f 
great strong Kruman, for example, with his front teeth ) ' 
filed, nothing much on but oil, half a dozen wives, and 
half a hundred Ju Jus, is a sort of person whom I hold 
higher than any other form of native, let the other form 
dress in silk, satin, or cashmere, and make what pretty 
things he pleases. This is, of course, a general view ; 
but I am often cornered for the detail view, whether I 
can reconcile my admiration for Africans with my state- 
ment that they are a different kind of human being to 
white men. Naturally I can, to my own satisfaction, 
just as I can admire an oak tree or a palm ; but it 
is an uncommonly difficult thing to explain. All I can 
say is, that when I come back from a spell in Africa, 
the thing that makes me proud of being one of the 
English is not the manners or customs up here, certainly 
not the houses or the climate ; but it is the thing 
embodied in a great railway engine. I once came home 
on a ship with an Englishman who had been in South 
West Africa for seven unbroken years ; he was sane, 
and in his right mind. But no sooner did we get ashore 


at Liverpool, than he rushed at and threw his arms 
round a postman, to that official's embarrassment and 
surprise. Well, that is just how I feel about the first 
magnificent bit of machinery I come across : it is the 
manifestation of the superiority of my race. 

In philosophic moments I call superiority difference, 
from a feeling that it is not mine to judge the grade 
in these things. Careful scientific study has enforced on 
me, as it has on other students, the recognition that the 
African mind naturally approaches all things from a 
spiritual point of view. Low down in culture or high 
up, his mind works along the line that things happen 
because of the action of spirit upon spirit ; it is an effort 
for him to think in terms of matter. We think along 
the line that things happen from the action of matter 
upon matter. If it were not for the Asiatic religion we 
have accepted, it is, I think, doubtful whether we should 
not be far more materialistic in thought-form than we 
are. This steady sticking to the material side of things, 
I think, has given our race its dominion over matter ; 
the want of it has caused the African to be notably 
behind us in this, and far behind those Asiatic races who 
regard matter and spirit as separate in essence, a thing 
that is not in the mind either of the Englishman or 
the African. The Englishman is constrained by circum- 
stances to perceive the existence of an extra material 
world. The African regards spirit and matter as un- 
divided in kind, matter being only the extreme low form 
of spirit. There must be in the facts of the case behind 
things, something to account for the high perception of 
justice you will find in the African, combined with an 
inability to think out a pulley or a lever except under 
white tuition. Similarly, taking the true Negro States, 
which are in their equivalent to our thirteenth century, it 
accounts for the higher level of morals in them than you 
would find in our thirteenth century ; and I fancy this 
want of interest and inferiority in materialism in the true 
Negro constitutes a reason why they will not come into 
our nineteenth century, but, under proper guidance 
could attain to a nineteenth century state of their own, 


which would show a proportionate advance. The analogy 
of the influence of the culture of Rome, or rather let us 
say the culture of Greece spread by the force of Rome, 
upon Barbarian culture is one often used to justify the 
hope that English culture will have a similar effect on 
the African. This I do not think is so. It is true the 
culture of Rome lifted the Barbarians from what one 
might call culture 9 to culture 17, but the Romans and 
the Barbarians were both white races. But you see now 
a similar lift in culture in Africa by the influence of 
Mohammedan culture, for example in the Hausa States 
and again in the Western Soudan, where there is no 
fundamental race difference. 

In both English and Mohammedan Berber influence 
on the African there is another factor, apart from race 
difference ; namely, that the two higher cultures are in a 
healthier state than that of Rome was at the time it 
mastered the Barbarian mind ; in both cases the higher 
culture has the superior war force. 

This seems to me simply to lay upon us English for the 
sake of our honour that we keep clean hands and a cool 
head, and be careful of Justice ; to do this we must 
know what there is we wish to wipe out of the African, 
and what there is we wish to put in, and so we must not 
content ourselves by relying materially on our superior 
wealth and power, and morally on catch phrases. All 
we need look to is justice. Love of our fellow-man, pity, 
charity, mercy, we need not bother our heads about, so 
long as we are just. These things are of value only 
when they are used as means whereby we can attain 
justice. It is no use saying that it matters to a Teuton 
whether the other race he deals with is black, white, 
yellow — I can quite conceive that we should look down 
on a pea-green form of humanity if we had the chance. 
Naturally, I think this shows a very proper spirit. I 
should be the last to alter any of our Teutonic institu- 
tions to please any race ; but when it comes to altering 
the institutions of another race, not for the reason even 
of pleasing ourselves but merely on the plea that we 
don't understand them, we are on different ground. If 


those ideas and institutions stand in the way of our 
universal right to go anywhere we choose and live as 
honest gentlemen, we have the power-right to alter them ; 
but if they do not we must judge them from as near a 
standard of pure Justice as we can attain to. 

There are many who hold murder the most awful 
crime a man can commit, saying that thereby he 
destroys the image of his Maker ; I hold that one of 
the most awful crimes one nation can commit on another 
is destroying the image of Justice, which in an institution 
is represented more truly to the people by whom the 
institution has been developed, than in any alien insti- 
tution of Justice ; it is a thing adapted to its environ- 
ment. This form of murder by a nation I see being 
done in the destruction of what is good in the laws and 
institutions of native races. In some parts of the world, 
this murder, judged from certain reasonable standpoints, 
gives you an advantage ; in West Africa, judged from 
any standpoint you choose to take, it gives you no 
advantage. By destroying native institutions there, you 
merely lower the moral of the African race, stop trade, and 
with it the culture advantages it brings both to England 
and West Africa. I again refer you to the object lesson 
before you now, the hut tax war in Sierra Leone. 
Awful accusations have been made against the officers 
and men who had the collecting of this tax. In the 
matter of the native soldiery, there is no doubt these 
accusations are only too well founded, but the root thing 
was the murder of institutions. The worst of the whole 
of this miserable affair is that a precisely similar miser- 
able affair may occur at any time in any of our West 
African Crown Colonies — to-morrow, any day — until 
you choose to remove the Crown Colony system of 

It has naturally been exceedingly hard for men who 
know the colony and the natives, with the experience of 
years in an unsentimental commercial way, to keep civil 
tongues in their heads while their interests were being 
wrecked by the action of the Government ; but whether 
or no the white officers were or were not brutal in their 


methods we must presume will be shown by Sir David 
Chalmers's report. I am unable to believe they were. 
But there is no manner of doubt that outrages have 
been committed, disgraceful to England, by the set of 
riff-raff rascal Blacks, who had been turned out by, or 
who had run away from, the hinterland tribes down into 
Sierra Leone Colony, and there been turned, by an ill- 
informed government, into police, and sent back with 
power into the very districts from which they had, 
shortly before, fled for their crimes. I entirely sym- 
pathise, therefore, with the rage of Liverpool and 
Manchester, and of every clear-minded common-sense 
Englishman who knows what a thing the hut tax war 
has been. And I want common-sense Englishmen to 
recognise that a system capable of such folly, and under 
which such a thing could happen in an English pos- 
session, is a system that must go. For a system that 
gets short of money, from its own want of business-like 
ability, and then against all expert advice goes and does 
the most unscientific thing conceivable under the cir- 
cumstances, to get more, is a thing that is a disgrace 
to England. Yet the Sierra Leone Colony was capable 
of this folly, and the people in London were capable of 
saying to Liverpool and Manchester, that no difficulty 
was expected from the collection of the tax. If this is 
so in our oldest colony, what reason have we to believe 
that in the others we are safer ? Any of them, in com- 
bination with London, may to-morrow go and do the 
most unscientific thing conceivable, and disgrace England, 
in order to procure more local revenue, and fail at that. 

The desire to develop our West African possessions is 
a worthy one in its way, but better leave it totally alone 
than attempt it with your present machinery ; which 
the moment it is called upon to deal with the adminis- 
tration of the mass of the native inhabitants gives such 
a trouble. And remember it is not the only trouble your 
Crown Colony system can give ; it has a few glorious 
opportunities left of further supporting everything I 
have said about it, and more. But I will say no more. 
You have got a grand rich region there, populated by 




an uncommon fine sort of human being. You have 
been trying your present set of ideas on it for over 400 
years ; they have failed in a heart-breaking drizzling sort 
of way to perform any single solitary one of the things 
you say you want done there. West Africa to-day is 
just a quarry of paving-stones for Hell, and those stones 
were cemented in places with men's blood mixed with 
wasted gold. 

Prove it ! you say. Prove it to yourself by going there 
— I don't mean to Blazes — but to West Africa. 



Wherein the student, having said divers harsh things of those 
who destroy but do not reconstruct, recognises that, having 
attempted destruction, it is but seemly to set forth some other 
way whereby the West African colonies could be managed. 

West Africa, I own, is a make of country difficult for 
a power with a different kind of culture, climate and set 
of institutions, and so on, to manage from Europe 
satisfactorily. But, as things go, I venture to think it 
presents no insuperable difficulty ; that all the difficulties 
that exist in this matter are difficulties arising from 
misunderstandings — things removable, not things of 
essence, barring only fever. 

Also I feel convinced that no one of our English 
governmental methods at present existing is suitable for 
its administration. It is no use saying, Look at our 
Indian system, why not just introduce that into West 
Africa? I have the greatest admiration for our Indian 
system ; it is the right thing in the right place, thanks to 
its having healthily grown up, fostered by experts, mili- 
tary and civil. Nevertheless it would not do for West 
Africa to-day. What we want there is the sowing of a 
similar system, not the transplanting of the Indian in its 
perfect form, for that is to-day for West Africa infinitely 
too expensive. If a man before his fortune is made 
spends a fortune, he ends badly ; if he measures his 


expenditure with his income and develops his oppor- 
tunities, he ends as a millionaire ; and we must never 
forget that great dictum that the State is the perfection 
of the individual man, and should mould our politics 

I hold it to be a sound and healthy idea of ours that 
our possessions over-sea should pay their own way, and 
I therefore distrust the cucumber-frame form of financial 
politics that at present holds the field in West African 
affairs. It has been the pride and boast of the West 
African colonies that they have paid their way ; let it 
remain so. It seems to me unsound that our colonies 
there should receive loans wherewith to carry on ; for, 
for one thing, it makes them carry on more than is good 
for them, and merely means a piling up of debt ; and, 
for another, it gives West Africa the notion that it is 
England's business to support her, which to my mind it 
distinctly is not ; for if we wanted a lapdog set of colonies 
we could get healthier ones elsewhere. Moreover, it 
pauperises instead of fostering the proper pride, without 
which nothing can flourish. 

Apart from our Indian system, we have, for govern- 
ing those regions where our race cannot locally produce 
a sufficient population of its own to take the reins of 
government out of the hands of officialdom in England, 
only two other systems, namely, the Chartered Company 
and the Crown Colony. I beg to urge that it is high 
time we had a third system. Concerning the Crown 
Colony system for Africa, I have spoken as tolerantly as 
I believe it is possible for any one acquainted with its 
working in West Africa to speak. If I were to say any 
more I might say something uncivil, which, of course, I 
do not wish to do. Concerning the Chartered Company 
system, I need only remark that there are two distinct 
breeds of Chartered Companies — the one whose attention 
is turned to the trade, the other whose attention is turned 
to the lands over which its charter gives it dominion. 
The first kind is represented in Africa by the Royal 
Niger Company, the second by the South African. 

The second form of Chartered Company, that inter- 


ested in land, we have not in West Africa under the 
name of a Company ; but the present Crown Colony 
system represents it, and I feel certain that whatever 
good the South African Company may have done for 
the empire in South Africa, it has done an immense 
amount of harm in Western Africa. For some, to me 
unknown, reason the South African Company has found 
favour in the sight of officialdom in London ; and, fas- 
cinated by its success in South Africa, yet recognising 
its drawbacks, officialdom has attempted to introduce 
what they regard as best in the South African system 
into West Africa. I do not think any student can 
avoid coming to the conclusion that the policy which is 
now driving the Crown Colonies in West Africa is one 
and the same with that of Mr. Rhodes. I do not mean 
that Mr. Rhodes, had he had the handling of West 
Africa, would himself have used this form of policy. He 
formulated it for South Africa ; but, with his careful 
study of such things as local needs, he would have 
formulated another form for West Africa, which is a 
totally different region. 

To take only two of the differences, and state them 
brutally. First, in West Africa the most valuable asset 
you have is the native : the more heavily the district \^ 
there is populated with Africans, and the more pros- 
perous those natives are, the better for you ; for it 
means more trade. All the gold, ivory, oil, rubber, and 
timber in West Africa are useless to you without the 
African to work them ; you can get no other race that 
can replace him, and work them ; the thing has now been 
tried, and it has failed. Whereas in South Africa the 
converse is true : you can do without the African there, 
you can replace him with pretty nearly any other kind 
of man you like, or do the work yourself. The second 
difference is, that the land in South Africa is worth 
your having, you can go and domesticate on it ; whereas 
in West Africa you cannot. A failure to recognise these 
differences is at the root of our present ill-judged West 
African policy, outside the Royal Niger Company's 
domain ; by introducing South African methods we are 



trying to get what is of no use to us, the Landes Hoheit y 
and thereby devastating what is of use to us, the trade. 

However, I will not detain you over this interesting 
question of Chartered Company government. I merely 
wish to draw your attention to the two breeds, the 
Land Company, and the Trade Company; and to 
urge that they are things to be applied in their re- 
spective proper environments. I can honestly assure 
you, I know every blessed, single, mortal thing that can 
be said against the trade form which I admire, for I 
have lived under a hail of this sort of information 
since I was discovered by my big Ju Ju, Liverpool, to 
be such an admirer of what I called a co-ordinate system 
of government and trade, and Liverpool called divers 

I shall go to my grave believing that Liverpool had 
reasons for attacking the Trade Company, but neg- 
lected fundamental facts in its controversy with that 
Company, which, to it, was " a little more than kith, and 
less than kind." The Royal Niger Company has de- 
monstrated its adaptation to its environment. Without 
any forced labour, without any direct taxation, it has 
paid. I venture to think, though I have no doubt it 
would severely hurt the feelings of the R.N.C., that 
we may regard the Royal Niger Company as repre- 
senting the perfected system of native government in 
West Africa plus English courage and activity. I 
believe that on this foundation has been built its success. 
For, say what you like, if the Royal Niger had not got 
on well with the natives in its territories — dealt cleanly, 
honestly, rationally with them — it would never have 
extended its influence in the grand way it has, repre- 
sented only by a mere handful of white men, in what 
is, as far as we know, the most densely populated 
region with the highest and most organised form of 
native power in all tropical Africa. Had it not been to 
the natives it ruled a just, honourable, and desirable 
form of government, it would long ago have been 
stamped out by them, or would have been compelled 
to call in England's armed support to maintain it, as 


the Crown Colony system has been compelled to do 
in Sierra Leone and on the Gold Coast. It has not 
had to call in Imperial assistance, and it has paid its 
shareholders — a sound, healthy conduct ; but, neverthe- 
less, remember that all the great debt of gratitude you 
and every one of the English owe the Royal Niger 
Company for defending the honour of England against 
Continental enterprise, for maintaining the honour of 
England in the eyes of the native races with whom it 
had made treaties, you do not owe to the Chartered 
Company system, but to Sir George Goldie, the man 
who had to use it because it was the best existing system 
available for such a region. You have too much sense 
to give all the honour to Lord Kitchener of Khartoum's 
sword, though a sword is an excellent thing. I trust, 
therefore, you have too much sense to give all honour 
to the Chartered Company, even when it is a trading 
company. Trade is an excellent thing, but, in the case 
of the Royal Niger, this very factor, trade, restricts the 
man who uses the Chartered Company to a set of white 
men and a set of black. Therefore, never can I feel that 
either Liverpool or the Brass men have profited by the 
R.N.C. as they would have done if there had been a 
better system available for dealing with what Mr. St. 
Loe Strachey delicately calls " a dark-skinned popula- 
tion" with an insufficient local white population at hand. 
Briefly, I should say that the Chartered Company 
system keeps its " ain fish-guts for its ain sea-maws " 
too much. Therefore now, when, like many before me 
who have laboured strenuously to reform, I have given 
up the idea that reformation is possible for the indi- 
vidual on whom they have expended their powers, and 
have decided that there are some people whom you 
can only reform with a gun, I will start reforming my- 
self, and say the Chartered Company system is not good 
enough, taken all round as things are, for West Africa 
for these reasons. 

First, a Chartered Company consists of a band of 
merchants, ruling through, and by, a great man. If 
that great man who expands the influence and power 

z 2 


of the Company lives long enough to establish a form 
of policy, well and good. I have sufficient trust in the 
common sense of a band of English merchants, pro- 
vided their interest is common, to believe they will 
adhere to the policy ; but suppose he does not, or sup- 
pose you do not start with a good man, you will merely 
have a mess, as has been demonstrated by the per- 
petual failures of our French friends' Chartered Com- 
panies. By the way, I may remark that although France 
is no great admirer of the Chartered system with us, 
she is devoted to it for herself, sprinkling all her West 
African possessions with Companies freely, only unfortu- 
nately, as their names are usually far longer than their 
banking accounts, they do not grow conspicuous; even 
apart from these private and subsidised Chartered Com- 
panies in French possessions, France follows the Chartered 
system imperially in West Africa by keeping out non- 
French trade with differential tariffs, and so on. But, 
after all, in this matter she is no worse than English 
critics of the Royal Niger ; and it is a common trait 
of all West African palavers that those who criticise 
are amply well provided themselves with the very faults 
they find so repulsive in others — it's the climate. 

Secondly, the Chartered Company represents English 
trade interests in sections, instead of completely ; 
English honour, common sense, military ability, and 
so on, the Royal Niger under Sir George Goldie has 
represented more perfectly than these things have ever 
been represented in West — or, I may safely say, Africa 
at large ; but the trade interests of England it has only 
represented partially, or in other words, it has only 
represented the trade interests of its shareholders and 
the natives it has made treaties with, and what we 
want is something that will represent our trade interests 
there as a whole. Therefore, I do not advocate it as 
the general system for West Africa, for under another 
sort of man it might mean merely a more rapid crash 
than we are in for with the Crown Colony system. 
To my dying day I shall honour that great Trade 
Company, the Royal Niger, for representing England, 


that is, England properly so-called, to the world at 
large, during one of the darkest ages we have ever had 
since Charles II. ; and, I believe that it, with the Com- 
mittee of Merchants who held the Gold Coast for 
England after the battle of Katamansu, when her 
officials would have abandoned alike the Gold Coast 
and her honour in West Africa, will stand out in our 
history as grand things, but yet I say we want another 

" Du binst der Geist der stets verneint!" you ejacu- 
late. You do not like Crown Colonies. You won't 
grovel to Chartered Companies, however good. You 
prove, on your own showing, that there is not in West 
Africa a sufficiently large, or a sufficiently long resident, 
local English population — what with their constantly 
leaving for home or for the cemetery — to form an in- 
dependent colony. What else remains ? 

Well, I humbly beg to say that there is another system 
— a system that pays in all round peace and prosperity 
— a system whereby a region with a native population — 
a lively one in a thirteenth century culture state — of 
about 30,000,000, is ruled. The total value of exports 
from the regions I refer to averages £14,000,000, out of 
a country of very much the same make as West 
Africa ; the floating capital in its trade is some 
£25,000,000; its actual land area is 562,540 square 
miles; yet its trade with its European country amounts, 
nevertheless, to at least one half of that carried on 
between India and England. If you apply the system 
that has built this thing up, practically since 1830, to 
West Africa, you will not get the above figures out in 
forty years ; but you will get at least two-thirds of 
them ; and that would be a grand rise on your present 
West African figures, and in time you could surpass 
these figures, for West Africa is far larger, and far 
nearer European markets, and you have the advantage 
of superior shipping. 

The region I am citing is not so unhealthy for whites 
as West Africa. Still, it has a stiff death-rate of its 
own ; even nowadays, when it has pulled that death-rate 



down by Science — a thing, I may remark, you never 
trouble your head about in West Africa, or think worthy 
of your serious attention. 

I will not insult your knowledge by telling you where 
this system is working to-day, or who works it, and all 
that. The same consideration also bars me from apply- 
ing for a patent for this system ; for although I lay it 
before you altered to what I think suitable for West 
Africa, the main lines of the system remain. The only 
thing I confess that makes me shaky about its being 
applied to West Africa is, that this system requires and 
must have experts black and white to work it, both at 
home in England and out in West Africa. Still, you 
have a sufficient supply of such experts, if only you 
would not leave things so largely in the hands of clerks 
and amateurs ; who, with the assistance of faddists and 
renegade Africans, break up the native true Negro cul- 
ture state, leaving you little sound stuff to work on in 
the regions now under the Crown Colony system, 

Before I proceed to sketch the skeleton of the other 
system, I must lay before you briefly the present politi- 
cal state of West Africa in the words of the greatest 
living expert on the subject, as they are given in a 
remarkable article in the Edinburgh Review for October, 

" The weighty utterance of Sir George Goldie should 
never be forgotten, ' Central African races and tribes 
have, broadly speaking, no sentiment of patriotism as 
understood in Europe.' There is, therefore, little diffi- 
culty in inducing them to accept what German juris- 
consults term ' Ober Hoheit,' which corresponds with 
our interpretation of our vague term ' Protectorate.' 
But when complete sovereignty or ' Landes Hoheit,' is 
conceded, they invariably stipulate that their local cus- 
toms and systems of government shall be respected. 
On this point they are, perhaps, more tenacious than 
most subject races with whom the British Empire has 
had to deal ; while their views and ideas of life are ex- 
tremely difficult for an Englishman to understand. It 
is therefore certain that even an imperfect and tyranni- 


cal native African administration, if its extreme excesses 
were controlled by European supervision, would be in 
the early stages productive of far less discomfort to its 
subjects than well-intentioned but ill-directed efforts of 
European magistrates, often young and headstrong, and 
not invariably gifted with sympathy and introspective 
powers. If the welfare of the native races is to be con- 
sidered, if dangerous revolts are to be obviated, the 
general policy of ruling on African principles through 
native rulers must be followed for the present. Yet it 
is desirable that considerable districts in suitable locali- 
ties should be administered on European principles by 
European officials, partly to serve as types to which the 
native governments may gradually approximate, but 
principally as cities of refuge in which individuals of 
more advanced views may find a living if native govern- 
ment presses unduly upon them, just as in Europe of 
the Middle Ages men whose love of freedom found the 
iron-bound system of feudalism intolerable, sought 
eagerly the comparative liberty of cities." 1 

There are a good many points in the above classic 
passage on which I would fain become diffuse, but I 
forbear ; merely begging you to note carefully the word- 
ing of that part concerning government by natives ruling 
on African principles, because here is a pitfall for the 
hasty. You will be told that this is the present policy 
in Crown Colonies — but it is not. What they are doing 
is ruling on European principles through natives, which 
is a horse of another colour entirely and makes it hot 
work for the unfortunate native catspaw chief, and so 
all round unsatisfactory that no really self-respecting 
native chief will take it on. 

Well, to return to that other system : what it has got 
to do is to unite English interests — administrative, com- 
mercial and educational — into one solid whole, and com- 
bine these with native interests ; briefly, to be a system 
where the Englishman and the African co-operate 
together for their mutual benefit and advancement, 

1 Preface by Sir George Goldie to Vandeleur's Campaigning on 
the Upper Nile and Niger, 1 898. 


and therefore it must be a representative system, and 
one of those groups of representative systems which 
form the British Empire. 

For reasons I need not discuss here it must be a 
duplicate system, with an English and an African side, 
these two united and responsible to the English Crown, 
but both having as great a share of individual freedom 
in Africa as possible. By and by the necessity for the 
duplicate system may disappear, but at present it is 

I will take the English side first. There should be 
in England an African Council, in whose hands is the 
power of voting supplies and of appointing the Governor- 
General, subject to the approval of the Crown, and to 
whom firms trading in Africa should be answerable for 
the actions of their representatives. This council should 
be of nominated members, from the Chambers of Com- 
merce of Liverpool, Manchester, London, Bristol, and 
Glasgow. Of course, they should not be paid members. 
This council would occupy a similar position in West 
African administration to that which the House of 
Commons occupies in English. 

Under this Grand Council there should be two sub- 
councils reporting to it, one a joint committee of English 
lawyers and medical men, the other a committee of 
the native chiefs. Neither of these councils should be 
paid, but sufficient should be granted them to pay their 
working expenses. The members of these sub-councils 
of the Grand Council should be appointed — the medical 
and legal committee by say, the Lord Chancellor and 
the College of Physicians respectively, and the committee 
of African chiefs by the chiefs, in West Africa. 

I make no pretence at believing that either of these 
sub-councils for the first few years of their existence 
will be dove-cots — lawyers and doctors will always fight 
each other : but the lawyers will hold the doctors in and 
vice versa, and the common sense of the Grand Council 
will hold them both well down to practical politics. 
With the council of chiefs there will probably be less 
trouble, and this council will be an ambassador to the 


white government at headquarters capable of represent- 
ing to it native opinion and native requirements. 

Representing the Grand Council and nominated by 
it, subject to the approval of the Crown, as represented 
by the Chief Secretary for the Colonies and the Privy 
Council, there must be one Governor-General for West 
Africa ; he must be supreme commander of the land 
and sea forces, with the right of declaring peace and 
war, and concluding treaties with the native chiefs ; he 
must be a proved expert in West African affairs ; he 
must be paid, say, ,£5,000 a year ; he must spend six 
months on the Coast on a tour of inspection, during 
which he must be accessible alike to the European and 
native. He may, if he sees fit, spend more than six 
months out there ; but it is not advisable he should 
reside there permanently, for if he does so, he will 
assuredly get out of touch with the Grand Council, of 
which he should ex officio be chairman or president. 
This Grand Council with its sub-councils is all that is 
required in England for the government of West Africa. 
It is not, as you see, an expensive system per se: with its 
power to raise supplies, it could vote itself sufficient to 
carry on its out-of-pocket expenses in the matter of 
clerks and goods inspectors. The connecting link be- 
tween it and Africa is the Governor-General ; between 
it and England, the Chief Secretary for the Colonies 
— not the Colonial, or Foreign, or any other existing 
Office : things it should be equal with, not subject to. 

Out in Africa, the Governor-General should be the 
representative of the English raj — the Ober Hoheit of 
England — and the head of the system of Landes Hoheit, 
represented by the African chiefs ; in him the two must 
join. Under his control, on the European side, must be 
the few European officials required to administer the 
country locally. These must be carefully picked, ex- 
perienced men, provided with sufficient power to enforce 
their rule with promptitude when it comes to details ; 
but the policy of the Ober Hoheit should be the policy 
of the Governor and Grand Council, not of the in- 
dividual official. 


Immediately in grade under the Governor-General 
should come a set of district commissioners or governors, 
one for each of the present colonies. These men should 
be the resident representatives of the Governor-General, 
and responsible to him for the affairs, trade and political, 
of their districts. These district commissioners should 
be paid £2,000 a year each, and have a term of residence 
on the Coast of twelve months, with six months' fur- 
lough at home on half pay, the other half of the pay 
going to the men who represent them during their 
absence at home — the senior sub-commissioners of their 
districts. 1 

The next grade are the sub-commissioners. These 
are only required in the districts now termed Protector- 
ates ; the Europeanised coast towns to be under a 
different system I will sketch later. Well, these Protec- 
torate districts should be divided up among sub-commis- 
sioners, who should each reside in his allotted district. 
They should be responsible directly to the district com- 
missioner, and they should represent to him constantly 
the chiefs' council of the sub-district and the trade, 
and on the other hand represent trade and the Ober 
Hoheit things to the native chiefs. These men, there- 
fore, will be the backbone of the system, and primarily 
on them will depend its success ; so they must be expert 
men — well acquainted with the native culture state, and 
with the trade. Each of these sub-commissioners should 
have in his district, his own town, from which he should 

1 The time which a man ought to be expected to remain in West 
Africa is difficult to determine — representatives of trading firms 
are expected to remain out two years, and the mortality among 
them is certainly no higher than among the officials with their twelve 
months' service. It is contended by the commercial party that 
it takes a man several months after returning from furlough to get 
into working order again, that under the twelve months' system no 
sooner has he done this than he is off on furlough again, in short that 
the system is foolish and wasteful in the extreme. On the other 
hand the advocates of the short service plan contend that a man 
is not fit for work at all after twelve months in West Africa, and 
that if he is not definitely ill, he has at any rate lost all energy. 
Personally, I fancy it depends on the individual, and that with d 
definite policy the short service plan will be quite safe. 


frequently make tours of inspection round his district 
at large ; but this town should be what Sir George 
Goldie calls " a town of refuge." English law should 
rule in it absolutely, administered by an official, one of 
the class of men approved by the legal sub-council of 
the Grand Council. The sub-commissioner should also 
have in his town a medical staff of three men, nominated 
by the medical side of the sub-council of the Grand 
Council. These three (chief medical, assistant medical, 
and dispenser) should have a hospital provided, where 
they can carry on their work properly. Also in this 
town should be the military force sufficient to enforce 
rule in the district — either to go and prevent one chief 
bagging another chiefs belongings, or to assist a chief 
in a domestic crisis. It is impossible to say how large 
a military staff a sub-commissioner would require ; some 
districts would require no more than fifty soldiers, while 
another might require 200. Details of this kind the 
Governor-General must decide ; but whatever size this 
force may be, it should be composed of troops under 
efficient military control. I believe the West Indian 
troops to be the best for this service ; but here again 
you will meet, if you take the trouble to inquire of people 
who ought to know, the greatest haziness of mind com- 
bined with an enormous difference of opinion. Some 
will tell you that the West Indians are no good, that 
they are cowardly and unfit for bush work, and require 
as many carriers as a white regiment. Others say the 
opposite, and hold forth on the evil of using raw 
savages as troops in such a country, and placing men 
who have been cast out on account of crime into 
positions of power and authority in the very districts 
wherein all the power they should have by rights would 
be to swing at the end of a rope. 

There is much to be said on both sides ; the only 
thing I will say is that military affairs in West Africa 
are in much the same scrappy mess as civil, and require 
reorganisation. There is, no doubt, excellent fighting 
material in many West African tribes, and turbulent 
native spirits are all the better for military organisation 


and discipline ; it is certain, however, that such men 
should be deported from districts wherein they have 
private scores to settle, and used elsewhere after they 
have been disciplined. If it were possible for the native 
regiments now being drilled in the hinterlands of our 
colonies out there to be used actively to guard our people 
from foreign aggression, there would be a good reason 
for having them, but recent events have demonstrated, 
in the Gold Coast hinterland for example, that they 
cannot, according to Government notions, be so em- 
ployed. Therefore they are worse than useless, for they 
merely add to the unjustifiable aggressions on the native 
residents by aggressions of their own ; such things as 
native police under the white Government side for the 
districts of the protectorate should not exist. They are 
a sort of wild fowl who will get you and themselves 
into more rows than they will ever get any one out of, 
and they will squeeze you and the native population into 
the bargain. The chiefs of the district should be respon- 
sible for the internal administration of justice among 
their own people. If a chief fails in this he should be 
removed, with the assistance of the military force at the 
command of the sub-commissioner. When, in fact, a 
chief is found to be going astray, the fact should be 
promptly brought before the council of chiefs ; a definite 
short time, say a month, should be allowed them to 
bring him to his bearings, and if at the expiration of 
this time they fail to do so, without any further delay 
the sub-commissioner should step in. In a very short 
time the chiefs' council would see the advisability of 
keeping this from happening, and also see that it can 
only be prevented by enforcing good government among 

Well, this West Indian guard should of course be 
under its proper military officers, and at the disposal of 
the sub-commissioner, and well installed in barracks, and 
made generally as happy as circumstances will permit. 

Then again in each town which forms the centre of a 
sub-commissioner's district there should be representatives 
of any firms who may wish to trade there. They can each 


have their separate factories, or form a local association 
for working the trade of the district as it pleases them. 
I think it would be advisable that in each of these towns 
away in the interior there should be a warehouse, whereto 
all goods coming up for the separate trading firms should 
be delivered, and wherein all exports ready for transport 
to the coast should be lodged, and the figures concerning 
these things ascertained. This should be the business 
of the sub-commissioner's secretary, and he can be aided 
in it by a black clerk. But it would not be a custom- 
house, because customs, like native regiments, do not 
exist out there under this system. 

If any of the firms like to establish sub-factories in 
the district outside the town, they should have every 
facility impartially afforded them to do so. Any attack 
made on them by the natives should be promptly re- 
venged, but outside the town in all trade matters the 
native law should rule under the administration of the 
local chief, with a power (in important cases — say, over 
.£20 involved) of appeal to the chiefs' council, and from 
that, if need be to the sub-commissioner. 

Now in this town, acting with and directing the council 
of chiefs, you will have all that the hinterland districts in 
West Africa at present require for their administration 
and development, except, you will say, religion and 
education. As for the first, as represented by the mis- 
sions, I think they will do best away from the rest, as 
I will presently attempt to explain. As for education, 
that will be in their hands too, and with them. The 
missionary stations about the district, however, will be 
under the direct control and protection of the sub- 
commissioner and his town. No gaol will be required 
there or elsewhere in West Africa ; the sort of thing a 
gaol represents is better represented by a halter and 
convict labour gang. So much, as old Peter Heylin 
would say, for the sub-commission. 

The district commissioner for a colony and its hinter- 
land should have a residence at one of the chief towns 
on the coast, making tours round to his sub-commis- 
sioners as occasion requires ; and he should always be 


accessible both to his sub-commissioners and to the dis- 
trict chiefs. At his head town should be the headquarters 
of the military force required by his colony, and the 
headquarters of the labour service. 

We will now turn to the administration of the coast 
towns, places that have been long in our possession and 
have a sufficient white and Europeanised African popu- 
lation to justify us in regarding them as English posses- 
sions in the Landes Hoheit sense. These towns should 
be governed by municipality, and should be under Eng- 
lish law, having accredited magistrates approved of by 
the Grand Council and paid, not by the municipalities, 
but by the Grand Council. 

Each municipality should occupy in the system an 
identical position to that occupied by the sub-commis- 
sioner in his town, and communicate with the district 
commissioner direct, receive all goods, and make returns 
of them to him. They should each have and be respon- 
sible for hospitals and schools within the town, and for 
its police, lighting, and sanitary affairs. Each munici- 
pality should be paid by the Government the same pay 
as a sub-commissioner, ,£1,000 a year. They should get 
their extra resources from a charge on the trade of the 
town at a fixed rate made by the Grand Council for all 
municipalities under the system. 

This system would do away with the division of our 
possessions, at present so misleading and vexatious and 
unnecessary, into Colonies and Protectorates, and sub- 
stitute for that division the just division into regions 
under our Landes Ober Hoheit (municipalities), and 
those under our Ober Hoheit — (sub-commissioners' dis- 
tricts). Both alike would be under the Governor-General 
as representing the Grand Council. 

There still remains one important new development 
in our West African methods — the organisation of native 
labour. The institution of a regular and reliable labour 
supply seems to me one of the most vital things for 
the progress of West Africa. There is undoubtedly in 
West Africa an enormous supply of labour, and that 
the true negro can work and work well the Krumen 


have amply demonstrated. All that is required is method 
and organisation. This you could easily supply. If, 
for example, you were to direct those energies of yours 
which are now employed in raising native regiments in 
the hinterland to raising and regulating a native labour 
army, it would be better. A native regiment of soldiers 
is a thing you do not want in any hinterland district, 
whereas the native regiment of labourers is a thing you 
do want very badly. 

There is also in this connection another fact : while, 
under the present state of affairs, one colony will be 
choked with men anxious for work, and another colony 
will be starving for labour, if all the English colonies 
were united under one system, and a regular labour 
department were instituted, this would be obviated. 

There exist in West Africa two sources of labour 
supply, but I think the Labour Department had better 
deal with only one of them — the free paid labour — 
the other, the convict, would be better placed under 
the kind care of the municipalities. 

All persons convicted of offences other than capital, 
should be, at the discretion of the magistrates, sen- 
tenced to a fine, or so many weeks' labour. The whole 
of this labour should be devoted to the Public Works 
Department of the Municipality, not of the State, and 
above all, should not be sent away up into the hinter- 
land, where there will be no one to look after it as 
convict labour requires. Quite apart from this, there 
should be the State Labour Department, whose juris- 
diction would extend over both colony and hinterland, 
and whose white officials should be a distinct line in 
the service ; one or more of these officials should be 
in every hinterland sub-commissioner's town. They 
would be recruiters and drillers of labourers, just as 
you now have recruiters and drillers of soldiers there ; 
and a requisition should be made to all the chiefs, to 
draft into this labour army any person, under their rule, 
who might be anxious to serve as a labourer ; and 
they should also have power to enrol any labour 
volunteer recruits that might come into the town, 


provided the chiefs could not show a satisfactory reason 
against their so doing. This labour army should be 
divided up into suitably sized gangs, with a head man 
elected by his gang, and be employed in the transport 
work required by the Government, or let out by the 
Government to private individuals requiring labour 
within the district, or drafted to other English colonies 
on the Coast, if occasion required, to do certain jobs — 
I do not say for certain spaces of time, because piece- 
work is the best system for West Africa. An attempt 
should be made gradually to induce the hinterland 
chiefs to adopt the Kru social system, wherein every 
man serves so many years as a labourer, then, about the 
age of thirty, joins the army and becomes a compound 
soldier-policeman, ending up in honour and glory as 
a local magistrate. But it must be remembered that 
domestic slavery is not a great institution among the 
Kru tribes, as it is amongst the hinterland tribes in our 
colonies ; the Kru system could not, therefore, be 
immediately introduced. 

We now come to the question of where the revenue is 
to come from to support this system. There is no 
difficulty about that in itself ; the difficulty comes in in 
the method to be employed in its collection. When one 
has a Chartered Trading Company it is, of course, a simple 
matter ; when you have a Crown Colony it is done by 
means of the custom-house system. The alternative 
system, however, is not a Chartered Company ; under it 
individual firms, so long as they can show sufficient 
capital and good faith, would work the details of their 
trade out there as freely and privately as in England. I 
think every effort should be made to do away in West 
Africa with the custom-house system as it exists in 
English Crown Colonies. In Cameroon it is better, but 
in our Crown Colonies and also in the Niger Coast 
Protectorate it is ruinous to the tempers of ship-masters 
and shippers, and the cause of a great waste of time — 
decidedly one of the main causes of the undue length of 
voyages to and from the Coast. 

It seems to me that the revenue of our West African 


possessions must be a charge on the trade ; and that 
this charge should, as much as possible, be collected in 
Europe from the shippers instead of from their repre- 
sentatives on the Coast. If I were king in Babylon, I 
would make all the trade to West Africa pass through 
Liverpool and pay its customs there to a custom-house 
of the Grand Council, or through the English ports of 
the other chambers represented on the Grand Council — 
each chamber being responsible for the trade of its port. 
I am aware that this would cause difficulty with the 
increasing continental trade ; but this would be obviated 
by affiliating Hamburg and Havre to the Council and 
giving into their hands the collection of the dues at 
those ports. The Grand Council should fix annually the 
amount of the trade tax, and it should have at its 
disposal for this matter the figures sent home by the 
separate district commissioners in West Africa. The 
sub-commissioner of a district should know the amount 
of trade his district was doing, and be paid a commission 
on it to stimulate his interest. If the goods used in his 
district were delivered at one warehouse in his town, he 
would have little difficulty in getting the figures, which 
he should pass on to the district commissioner, who 
should forward them to the Grand Council with report 
in duplicate to the Governor-General, so that that officer 
might keep his finger on the pulse of the prosperity 
of each district ; similarly, the municipalities should 
report to him the trade done in the towns under their 

In addition, the Government, that is to say, the 
Grand Council, should take over the monopoly of the 
tobacco import and the timber export. By using to- 
bacco in the same way as European governments use 
coinage, an immense revenue could be very cheaply 
obtained. The Grand Council should sell the tobacco 
to the individual traders who work the West African 
markets, allowing no other tobacco to be used in the 
trade ; this revenue also could be collected in Europe. 

The timber industry should, I think, be under 
governmental contro', both for the sake of providing 

A A 


the Government with revenue and for the sake of 
protecting the forests from destruction in those districts 
where forest destruction is a danger to the common 
weal, by weakening the forest barriers against the 

The return that the Government should make for 
these monopolies to the independent trader should be, 
among other things, transport. In the course of a few 
years the Government would have in hand a sufficient 
surplus to build a pier across the Gold Coast surf It is 
possible to build piers across the West Coast surf, for the 
French have done it. I would not advocate one great 
and mighty pier, that ocean-going steamers could go 
alongside, for all the Gold Coast ports, but a set of T- 
headed piers where surf boats or lighters could dis- 
charge, and the employment of stout steam tugs to 
tow surf boats and lighters to and fro between the 
lighters and the pier. 

Then again, every mile of available waterway inland 
should be utilised, and patrolled by Government cargo 
boats of the lawn-mower or flat-iron brand, as the Char- 
geurs-Reunis are subsidised to patrol the Ogowe. On 
the Gold Coast you have the Volta and the Ancobra 
available for this ; in Sierra Leone and Lagos you have 
many waterways penetrating inland. 

Land transport should also be in the hands of the 
Government, and goods delivered free of extra charge 
at the towns of the sub-commissioners ; this could be 
done by the Labour Department. When sufficient 
surplus revenue was in hand, light railways on the 
French system should be built, similarly delivering, free 
of freight, the goods belonging to the inland registered 
traders, but charging freight for passengers and local 
goods traffic. A telegraph and postal service should 
also be another source of revenue, if thrown open at a 
low charge to the general public. If there is a telegraph 
office in West Africa, where telegrams can be sent at 
a reasonable rate, the general public will throw away 
a lot of money on it in a fiscally fascinating way. 

These various sources of revenue will place in the 


hands of the Grand Council a sufficient revenue, and 
if that revenue is expended by them in developing 
methods of transport, I am confident that the trade of 
the district, in the hands of the private firms, will 
healthily expand, alike rapidly and continuously, and 
thereby supply more revenue, which, expended with 
equal wisdom, will again increase the trade and pro- 
sperity of the region, and make West Africa into a 
truly great possession. 

The things I depend on for the development of West 
Africa are mainly two. First, the sub-commissioner's 
town, acting in fellowship with the chiefs' council of the 
district. The example of that town will stimulate the 
best of the chiefs to emulation ; it will by every self- 
respecting chief, be regarded as stylish to have clean 
wide streets and shops, a telegraph and post-office, and 
things like that. Seeing that his elder brother, the sub- 
commissioner, has a line of telegraph connecting him 
with the district commission town, he will want a line of 
telegraph too. By all means let him have it ; let him 
have the electric light and a telephone, if he feels he 
wants it, and will pay for it ; but don't force these things, 
let them come in a natural way. The great thing, how- 
ever, in the sub-commissioner's town is that it should 
be so ruled and governed that it does not become a 
thing like our Coast towns now, sink-holes of moral 
iniquity, which stink in the nose of a respectable African 
— things he hates to see his sons and daughters and 
people go down into. 

Secondly, I depend on municipal government on the 
lines I have laid down for the Coast towns. The 
government of these municipalities would be in the 
hands of the representatives of the trading firms, and the 
more important native traders — people, as I hold, 
perfectly capable of dealing with affairs, and having a 
community of interests. 

The great difficulty in arranging any system for the 
government of West Africa lies not in the true 
difficulties this region presents, but in the fictitious 
difficulties which are the growth of years of mutual 

A a 2 


misunderstanding and misrepresentation. That great 
mass of mutual distrust, so that to-day down there white 
man distrusts white man and black, black man distrusts 
black man and white, may seem on a superficial review 
to be justified. But if you go deeper you will find that 
this distrust is the mere product of folly and ignorance, 
and is therefore removable. 

The great practical difficulty lies in arranging a system 
whereby the white trader can work on every legitimate 
line absolutely free from governmental hindrance. I 
have too great a respect for the West Coast traders 
to publish any criticism on them. I hold that the 
competition among them is too severe for them to face 
the present state of West Africa and prosper as men 
should, who run so great a risk of early death as the 
West Coast trader runs. I should like to know who 
profits by their internecine war ; I think no one but 
the native buyers of their goods. Again now, under the 
present Crown Colony system, the traders, knowing they 
are the people who have paid for the Government for 
years, who have given it the money it lives on, naturally 
ask for something back in the way of local improve- 
ments. The Government has now no money to carry 
out these improvements, unless it borrows it. The 
Government as at present existing must necessarily 
waste that borrowed money just as it has wasted the 
money the traders have paid it ; therefore the conse- 
quences of improvements under the present system must 
be debt, which the traders must pay in the end. I would 
therefore urge the traders to abandon a policy of de- 
manding improvements and protection in their trade 
relationships with the natives, such as ordinances against 
adulteration of produce, &c, and to realise that by gain- 
ing these things they are but enslaving themselves in 
the future. Let them rather adopt the policy of altering 
the form of government before they proceed to urge 
further governmental expenditure. 

If the traders require a dry-nurse system, let them 
formulate one in place of the one sketched above. I 
do not, however, think they want anything of the kind, 


unless they are indeed degenerate ; but, if they do, I beg 
them to bear in mind that you cannot have an Alexandra 
feeding bottle and a latch key ; they must choose one or 
the other. At present, the Crown Colony system gives 
neither. Under it the trader is treated like a child, a 
neglected child, one of those interesting but unfortunate 
children who have to support an elderly relative, who 
would be all the better for a cheap funeral. 

Upon the missionary and educational side of the sys- 
tem I have advocated I need not enlarge. Just as trade 
should go on under it free, so should mission effort ; 
there should be no governmental forcing of either, but it 
should be steadily borne in mind that the regeneration 
of the considerable amount of broken up stuff which 
exists in the Coast town regions — the Africans who have 
lost their old culture and their old Fetish regulation or 
conduct without being completely Europeanised — is a 
work that can only be effected by the missionary, and 
therefore in the hands of the missions should be placed 
the whole education department, with the one demand 
on it from the Government that in their schools every 
scholar should have the opportunity of acquiring a sound 
education in the rudiments of English reading, writing 
and arithmetic. Give him this knowledge, and your 
brilliant young African has demonstrated that he can 
rise to any examination such as an European university 
offers him. Under the system I advocate there need be 
no limitation as to colour in the officials employed in 
the municipalities. In the sub-commissioners' towns the 
head officials must be Englishmen, but among the 
regions under the Landes Hoheit in the hinterland, 
Africans educated as doctors or as traders could have 
grand careers provided they did honest work. 

The consideration of the African side of this system 
of administration is a thing into which — after all the 
long recitation I have inflicted on you concerning 
African religion and law — I am not justified in plunging 
here. I will merely, therefore, lay before you a state- 
ment of African Common Law, so that you may see 
the African principle through which the Landes Hoheit 

358 AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN chap, xvii 

— the government of Africa by Africans — would work. 
I am confident that the thing — the African principle — is 
so sound that it could work ; there is no need for us 
to put our Commerce under it, any more than there 
is need that we should attempt to put the African's 
private property under our own law ; but a healthy 
Commerce and a healthy Law should co-operate, and 
can co-operate. 

[To face Mi 

A Ho usa. 



Wherein some attempt is made to set down the divers kinds of 
property that exist among the people of the true Negro race 
in Western Africa, and the law whereby it is governed. 

In speaking on the subject of African property and 
the laws which guard it in its native state, I must, in the 
space at my disposal here, confine myself to speaking of 
these things as they are in one division of the many 
different races of human beings that inhabit that vast 
continent of Africa ; and, in order to present the affair 
more clearly, I must take them as they exist in their 
most highly developed state, namely, among the people 
of the true Negro stock, for it is among these people 
that pure African culture has reached so far its fullest 
state of development. 

The distribution zone of this true Negro stock cannot 
yet be fixed with any approach to accuracy, but we know 
that the seaboard of the regions inhabited by the true 
Negro is that vast stretch of the African West Coast 
from a point outh of the Gambia River to a point just 
north of Cameroon River, in the region of the Rio del 
Rey. We can safely say, within this region you will find 
the true Negro, but we cannot safely say how far inland, 
or how far down south of the Rio del Rey we shall find 
him. That this stock extends through up to the Nile 
regions ; that it stretches far away south of the Nile in 


the interior of the Upper Congo regions, appearing in the 
Azenghi ; that it stretches south on the coast line below 
the Rio del Rey, appearing as the so-called noble tribes 
of the Bight of Panavia, the Ajumba, Mpongwe, Igalwa, 
and also as Osheba, Befangh, will be demonstrated I 
believe when we have a sufficient supply of ethnological 
observers in Africa. But it must be remembered that 
you can only get the true Negro unadulterated in the 
coast regions of Western Africa between the Rivers 
Gambia and Cameroon. 

In the fringe regions of the West Soudan you have 
an adulterated form of him — adulterated in idea with 
Mohammedanism, and the Berber races ; to the east and 
to the south with that other great African race division, 
the Bantu. I venture to think that Bantu adulteration 
mainly takes the form of language. We have in our 
own continent many instances of races of greater strength 
and conquering power adopting the language of the 
weaker peoples whom they have conquered, when the 
language has been one more adapted to the needs of 
life and more widely diffused than their own, and there- 
fore more suited to commercial intercourse. 

The Negro languages are poor, and, moreover, they 
differ among themselves so gravely that one tribe can- 
not understand another tribe that lives even next door 
to it. I know 147 such languages in the region of the 
Niger Delta alone. Now this sort of thing means inter- 
preters, and is hindersome to commercial intercourse, 
and therefore you always find the true Negro, when he 
is in a district where he has opportunities of trading 
with other peoples, adopting their language, and making 
for use in public life a corrupt English, Portuguese, or 
Arabic lingo. Similarly, it seems to me, he has in the 
regions he has conquered in Southern and Central Africa, 
adopted Bantu, and much the same thing has happened, 
and is still happening, there, as happened in Southern 
and Central Europe. Just as the powerful barbarian 
stocks adopted Latin in a way that must keep Priscian's 
head still in bandages and to this day seriously mar his 
happiness in the Elysian fields, so have the true Negroes 


adopted the flexible Bantu languages. But it would be 
as unscientific to regard a Spaniard or a Frenchman as 
a full-blooded ancient Roman, as to regard many of 
the Negro tribes now speaking Bantu language as Bantu 

The Negro has, moreover, not only adopted Bantu 
languages in some regions, such as the Mpongwe, for 
example, but he has also adopted to a certain extent 
Bantu culture. I am sure those of you who have lived 
among the true Negroes and true Bantu, will agree with 
me that these cultures' differ materially. Africa, so far 
as I know it, namely, from Sierra Leone to Benguela, 
smells generally rather strong, but particularly so in 
those districts inhabited by the true Negro. This pre- 
eminence the true Negroes attain to by leaving the 
sanitary matters of villages and towns in the hands of 
Providence. The Bantu culture looks after the cleaning 
and tidying of the village streets to a remarkable degree, 
though by no means more clean in the houses, which, 
in both cultures, are quite as clean and tidy as you will 
find in England. Again, in the Bantu culture you 
will find the slaves living in villages apart : inside the 
true Negro they live with their owners ; and there are 
other points which mark the domestic cultures of these 
people as being different from each other, which I need 
not rJetain you with now. All these points in Bantu 
domestic culture the true Negro will adopt, as well as 
language ; but there seem to be two points he does 
not readily adopt, or rather two points in his own 
culture to which he clings. One is the religious: 
in Bantu you find a great female god, who, for 
practical purposes, is more important than the great 
male god, in so far as she rules mundane affairs. In 
the true Negro the great gods are male. There are 
great female gods, but none of them occupy a position 
equal to that occupied by Nzambi, as you find the Bantu 
great female god caljed among the people who are 
undoubtedly true Bantu, the Fjort. The other is the 
form of the State, and one important part of that form is 


the institution in the Negro tribes of a regular military- 
organisation, with a regular War Lord, not one and the 
same with the Peace Lord. 

This, I am aware, is not the customary or fashionable 
view of race distribution in Africa, but allow me to 
recall to your remembrance one of the most fascinating 
books ever written, The Adventures of Andrew Battel, 
of Leigh in Essex, who for eighteen years lived among 
the districts of the Lower Congo. 

I do this in order to show that I am not theorising in 
this matter. Andrew Battel left London on a ship 
sweetly named The May Morning, and having a consort 
named the Dolphin — they were pinnaces of fifty tons 
each — on the 20th of April, 1 589. With very little delay 
they fell into divers disasters, and Andrew became a 
prisoner in the hands of the Portuguese at Loanda. 
He had a very bad time of it, the Portuguese then 
regarding all Englishmen as pirates and nothing more, 
except heretics and vermin. Andrew, with the enterprise 
and common sense of our race, escaped several times 
from captivity, and with the stupidity of our race fell 
into it again, but his great escape was when he fell in 
with the Ghagas. Well, these Ghagas, Andrew Battel 
and the Portuguese historians say, were a fearful people, 
who came from behind Sierra Leone, and when the 
Kingdom of Congo was discovered by Diego Cao in 
1484, the Ghagas were attacking it so severely that, but 
for the timely arrival of the Portuguese and the help 
they gave Congo, there would in a very short time 
have been no Kingdom of Congo left to discover ; and 
to this day Dr. Blyden, who went there on a Govern- 
ment mission, says that up by Fallaba, in the Sierra 
Leone hinterland, you will now and then see a Ghaga — 
a man feared, a man of whom the country people do not 
know where his home is, nor what he eats or how he 
lives, but from whom they shrink as from a superior 
terrible form of human being — a remnant, or remainder 
over, of those people whose very name struck terror 
throughout Central Equatorial Africa in the 15 th 

House Property at Kacongo. 

Bubies of Fernando Po. 

[ To jace page 362. 


century, when, for some reason we do not know, they 
made a warlike migration down among the peaceful 
feeble Bantu. 

If you will carefully study the account given of the 
organisation of the Ghagas and also of the organisation 
of the Kingdom of Congo, I think you will see that in 
the Ghagas you have a true Negro State form, while in the 
Congo Kingdom you have something different ; some- 
thing that is nowadays called Bantu. What became of 
the Ghagas when foiled by the Portuguese in destroying 
the Kingdom of Congo is not exactly known, but there 
is a definite ground for thinking that, modified by inter- 
marriage and a different environment, they split up, 
and are now represented by the warlike South African 
tribes and East African tribes, such as the Matabele, and 
the Massai, and so on. The modification of this portion 
of the true Negro stem in the south and the east is akin 
to the modification the stem has undergone nearer to its 
true home on the West Coast of Africa, where to the 
north of Sierra Leone and behind the coast regions of 
the Ivory, Gold, and Slave Coasts it has, by admixture 
with the Berber tribes of the Western Soudan, produced 
the Black Moors, namely the Mandingo, the Hausa, and 
Oullaf. These Black Moors of the Western Soudan 
have attained to a high pitch of barbaric culture ; it 
appears to be a further development of the true Negro 
culture, but it is so suffused with the Mohammedan idea 
and law that it is not in this state that we can best study 
the native culture of the pure Negro. Neither can we 
study it well in those south and east regions where it has 
adopted Bantu language and culture to a certain extent. 

I will not, however, attempt to enter here upon the 
question of the continental distribution of the Negro 
and Bantu stocks ; I will merely beg observers of 
African tribes to note carefully whether their tribe is 
given to street-cleaning, to keeping slaves in separate 
villages, or to venerating a great female god. If it is, it 
has got a Bantu culture ; if, in addition, it has a regular 
military organisation, or a keen commercial spirit, or 
a certain ability to rule over the tribes round it, I beg 


they will suspect Negro blood and do their best to 
give us that tribe's migration history ; and then we may 
in future times be able to settle the question of race 
distribution on better lines than our present state of 
knowledge allows of. Having said that the law and 
institutions of the true Negro stock cannot best be 
studied in those regions where they are adulterated by 
alien cultures, it remains to say where they can best be 
studied. I think that undoubtedly this region is that 
of the Oil Rivers. 

The thing you must always bear in mind when 
observing institutions and so on from Sierra Leone 
down to Lagos, is that the fertile belt between the salt 
sea of the Bight of Benin and the sand sea of Sahara 
is but a narrow band of forest and fertile country, while, 
when you get below Lagos — Lagos itself is a tongue of 
the Western Soudan coming down to the sea — you are in 
the true heart of Africa, the Equatorial Forest Belt ; and 
that it is in this belt that you will get your materials at 
their purest. Therefore take the regions inhabited by 
the true Negro. In the regions from Sierra Leone to 
the Gold Coast, you have, it is true, not much white 
influence or adulteration, mainly because of the rock- 
reefed shore being dangerous to navigators. There is in 
this region undoubtedly a great and yearly increasing 
so-called Arab, but really Mohammedanised Berber, 
influence working on the true Negro. The natives 
themselves have their State-form in a state of wreckage 
from the destruction of the old Empire of Meli, which 
fell, from reasons we do not know, some time in the 16th 
century. We have, however, miserably little information 
on this particular region of Sierra Leone, the Pepper 
and Ivory Coasts, owing to its never having been worked 
at by a competent ethnologist ; but the accounts we have 
of it show that the secret societies have here got the 
upper hand to an abnormal extent for the Negro state. 
Then we come to the Gold Coast region which has 
been so excellently worked at by the late Sir A. B. 
Ellis. Here you have a heavy amount of adultera- 
tion in idea, and, moreover, the long-continued white 


influence — 143 5-1 898 — has decidedly tended to a dis- 
organisation of the Negro State-form, and to an undue 
development of the individual chief; nevertheless the 
law-form now existent on the Gold Coast is, when 
tested against a knowledge of the pure Negro law-form 
as found in the Oil Rivers, almost unaltered, and I 
think if you will carefully study that valuable book, 
Sarbar's Fanti Customary Law, you will also see that 
the State-form is identical in essence with that of the 
Oil Rivers — the House system. 

The House is a collection of individuals ; I should 
hesitate to call it a developed family. I cannot say it 
is a collection of human beings, because the very dogs 
and canoes and so on that belong to it are part of it 
in the eye of the law, and capable therefore alike of 
embroiling it and advancing its interests. These Houses 
are bound together into groups by the Long ju-ju proper 
to the so-called secret society, common to the groups of 
houses. The House itself is presided over by what is 
called, in white parlance, a king, and beneath him there 
are four classes of human beings in regular rank, that is 
to say, influence in council : firstly, the free relations of the 
king, if he be a free man himself, which is frequently not 
the case ; if he be a slave, the free people of the family 
he is trustee for ; secondly, the free small people who 
have placed themselves under the protection of the 
House, rendering it in return for the assistance and 
protection it affords them service on demand ; the third 
and fourth classes are true slave classes, the higher one 
in rank being that called the Winnaboes or Trade boys, 
the lower the pull-away boys and the plantation hands. 1 
The best point in it, as a system, is that it gives to the 
poorest boy who paddles an oil canoe a chance of 
becoming a king. 

Property itself in West Africa, and as I have reason 
to believe from reports in other parts of tropical Africa 
that I am acquainted with, is firmly governed and is 

1 See " Lecture on African Religion and Law," published by leave 
of the Hibbert Trustees in the National Review, and now reprinted 
at p. 395 below. 


divisible into three kinds. Firstly, ancestral property- 
connected with the office of headmanship, the Stool, as 
this office is called in the true Negro state, the Cap, as 
it is called down in Bas Congo ; secondly, family 
property, in which every member of the family has a 
certain share, and on which he, she, or it has a claim ; 
thirdly, private property, that which is acquired or made 
by a man or woman by their personal exertions, over 
and above that which is earned by them in co-operation 
with other members of their family which becomes 
family property, and that which is gained by gifts or 
made in trade by the exercise of a superior trading ability. 

Every one of these forms of property is equally sacred 
in the eye of the African law. The property of the 
Stool must be worked for the Stool ; working it well, 
increasing it, adds to the importance of the Stool, and 
makes the king who does so popular ; but he is trustee, 
not owner, of the Stool property, and his family don't 
come in for that property on his death, for every profit 
made by the working of Stool property is like this itself 
the property of the Stool, and during the king's life he 
cannot legally alienate it for his own personal advantage, 
but can only administer it for the benefit of the Stool. 

The king's power over the property of the family and 
the private property of the people under his rule, consists 
in the right of Ban, but not arriere Ban. Family 
property is much the same as regards the laws concern- 
ing it as Stool property. The head of the family is the 
trustee of it. If he is a spendthrift, or unlucky in its 
management he is removed from his position. Any 
profit he may make with the assistance of a member 
of his own family becomes family property ; but of 
course any profit he may make with the assistance of 
his free wives or wife, a person who does not belong to 
his family, or with the assistance of an outsider, may 
become his own. Private property acquired in the ways 
I have mentioned is equally sacred in the eyes of the 
law. I do not suppose you could find a single human 
being, slave or free, who had not some private property 
of his or her very own. Amongst that very interesting 


and valuable tribe, the Kru, where the family organisation 
is at its strictest, you can see the anxiety of the 
individual Kruman to secure for himself a little portion of 
his hard-earned wages and save it from the hands of his 
family elders. The Kruman's wages are paid to him in, 
or changed by him, into cloths and sundry merchandise, 
and he is not paid off until the end of his term of work. 
So he has to hurry up in order to appropriate to himself 
as much as he can on the boat that takes him back to 
his beloved " We " country, and industriously make for 
himself garments out of as much of his cotton goods as 
he can ; for even a man's family, even in Kru country, 
will not take away his shirt and trousers, but I am afraid 
there is precious little else that the Kruman can save 
from their rapacity. What he can save in addition to 
these, he informs me, he gives to his mother, or failing 
his mother, to a favourite sister, who looks after it and 
keeps it for him, she being, woman-like, more fit to 
quarrel if need be with the family elders than he is 
himself. But all private property once secured is sacred, 
very sacred, in the African State-form. I do not know 
from my own investigations, nor have I been able to find 
evidence in the investigations of other observers, of any 
king, priesthood, or man, who would openly dare interfere 
with the private property of the veriest slave in his 
district, diocese, or household. I know this seems a 
risky thing to say, and I do not like to say it because I 
feel that if I were a betting man I could make a good 
thing over betting on it, for experience has taught me 
that every time an African's property is taken by a 
fellow African under native law, and in times of peace, 
it is taken after it is confiscated by its original owner, 
either in bankruptcy or crime. You will hear dozens 
of accounts of how everything an African possessed 
was seized on, &c, but if you look into them you will 
find in every case that the individual so cleaned out 
owed it all, and frequently far more, before he or she fell 
into the hands of the Official Receiver, the local chief. 

One of the most common causes of an individual's 
entire estate being seized upon is a conviction for 


witchcraft. Every form of property in Africa is liable to 
be called on to meet its owner's debts, and the witch's 
is too heavy a debt for any individual's private estate 
to meet and leave a surplus. For not only does the 
witch owe to the family of the person, of whose murder 
he or she is convicted, the price of that life, but it is 
felt by the Community that the witch has not been 
found out in the first offence, and so every miscellaneous 
affliction that has recently happened is put down to the 
convicted witch's account. Mind you, I do not say all 
these claims are satisfied out of the estate of the witch 
deceased, (witches are always deceased by the authorities 
with the utmost despatch after conviction) because the 
said property has during the course of the trial got into 
the hands of Officialdom and has a natural tendency to 
stop there. But one thing is certain, there is no residuary 
estate for the witch's own relations. Not that for the 
matter of that they would dare claim it in any case, lest 
they should be involved with the witch and accused as 

Still, legally, the witch's relations have the consolation 
of knowing that, if things go smoothly and they evade 
being accused of a share in the crime, they cannot 
be called on to meet the debts incurred by the witch. 
From a family point of view better a dead witch than 
a live speculative trader. 

The reason of this delicate little point of law I confess 
gave me more trouble to discover than it ought to have 
done, for the explanation was quite simple, namely, the 
witch's body had been taken over by the creditors. 

Now, according to African law, if you take a man's 
life, or, for the matter of that, his body, dead or alive, in 
settlement of a debt, your claim is satisfied. You have 
got legal tender for it. I remember coming across an 
amusing demonstration of this law in the colony of 
Cameroon. There was, and still is, a windy-headed 
native trader there who for years has hung by the hair of 
loans over the abyss of bankruptcy. All the local native 
traders knew that man, but there arrived a new trader 
across from Calabar district who did not. Like the 


needle to the pole, our friend turned to him for a loan in 
goods and got it, with the usual result namely, excuses, 
delays, promises — in fact anything but payment ; enraged 
at this, and determined to show the Cameroon traders at 
large how to carry on business on modern lines, the 
young Calabar trader called in the Government and 
the debtor was gently but firmly confined to the 
Government grounds. Of course he was not put in 
the chain-gang, not being a serious criminal, but 
provided with a palm-mat broom he proceeded to do as 
little as possible with it, and lead a contented, cheerful 

It rather worried the Calabar man to see this, and also 
that his drastic measure caused no wild rush to him of 
remonstrating relations of the imprisoned debtor ; indeed 
they did not even turn up to supply the said debtor with 
food, let alone attempt to buy him off by discharging 
his debt. In place of them, however, one by one the 
Cameroon traders came to call on the Calabar merchant, 
all in an exceedingly amiable state of mind and very 
civil. They said it gave them pleasure to observe his 
brisk method of dealing with that man, and it was a 
great relief to their minds to see a reliable man of wealth 
like himself taking charge of that debtor's affairs, for now 
they saw the chance of seeing the money they had years 
ago advanced, and of which they had not, so far, seen 
a fraction back, neither capital nor interest. The Calabar 
man grew pale and anxious as the accounts of the debts 
he had made himself responsible for came in, and he 
knew that if the debtor died on his hands, that is to say 
in the imprisonment he had consigned him to, he would 
be obliged to pay back all those debts of the Cameroon 
man, for the German Government have an intelligent 
knowledge of native law and carry it out in Cameroon. 
Still the Calabar man did not like climbing down and 
letting the man go, so he supplied him with food and 
worried about his state of health severely. This that 
villainous Cameroon fellow found out, and was therefore 
forthwith smitten with an obscure abdominal complaint, 
a fairly safe thing to have as my esteemed friend Dr. 

B B 


Plehn was absent from that station, and therefore not 
able to descend on the malingerer with nauseous drugs. 
It is needless to say that at this juncture the Calabar 
man gave in, and let the prisoner out, freeing himself 
thereby from responsibility beyond his own loss, but 
returning a poorer and a wiser man to his own markets, 
and more assured than ever of the villainy of the whole 
Dualla tribe. 

In any case legally the relatives of a debtor seized 
or pawned can redeem, if they choose, the person or the 
body by paying off the debt with the interest, 33 J per 
cent, per annum, to the common rate. Great sacrifices 
and exertions are made by his family to redeem almost 
every debtor, and the family property is strained to its 
utmost on his or her behalf ; but in the case of a witch 
it is different, no set of relatives wish to redeem a 
convicted witch, who, reduced by the authorities to a 
body, and that mostly in bits and badly damaged, is not 
a thing desirable. No ! they say Society has got him 
and we are morally certain he must have been illegitimate, 
for such a thing as a witch never happened in our family 
before, and if we show the least interest in the remains 
we shall get accused ourselves. Of course if a man or 
woman's life is taken on any other kind of accusation 
save witchcraft, the affair is on a different footing. The 
family then forms a higher estimate of the deceased's 
value than they showed signs of to him or her when 
living, and they try to screw that value to the uttermost 
farthing out of the person who has killed their kinsman. 
Society at large only regards you for doing this as a fool 
man to think so highly of the departed, whose true value 
it knows to be far below that set on him. In the case of 
a living man taken for debt, he is a slave to his creditor, 
a pawn slave, but not on the same footing as a boughten 
slave ; he has not the advantages of a true slave in the 
matter of succeeding to the wealth or position of the 
house, but against that" he can be a free man the moment 
his debts are paid. This may be a theoretical possibility 
only, just as it would be theoretical for me to expect my 
family to bail me out if the bail were a question of a 

xviii RISKS OF BURIAL 371 

million sterling, but in legal principle the redemption is 

In the case of taking a dead body another factor is 
introduced. By taking charge of and interring a body, 
you become the executor to the deceased man's estate. 
I have known three sets of relatives arrive with three 
coffins for one body, and a consequential row, for a good 
deal can be made by an executor ; but if you make 
yourself liable for the body's liabilities care is needed, 
and there is no reckless buying of bodies with whose 
private affairs you are not conversant, in West Africa. 
It is far too wild a speculation for such quiet com- 
mercial men as my African friends are. Hence it comes 
that a Negro merchant on a trading tour away from 
his home, overtaken by death in a town where he is 
not known, is not buried, but dried and carefully put 
outside the town, or on the road to the market, the road 
he came by, so that any one of his friends or relations, 
who may perchance come some time that way, can 
recognise the remains. If they do they can take the 
remains home and bury them if they like, or bury them 
there, free and welcome, but the local County Council 
will do nothing of the kind. A nice thing a set of 
respectable elders, or as their Fanti name goes Paynim, 
would let themselves in for by burying the body of a 
gentleman who happened to have four murders, ten 
adultery cases, a crushing mass of debt, and no earthly 
assets save a few dilapidated women, bad ones at that, 
and a whole pack of children with the Kraw Kraw, or 
the Guinea worm, or both together and including the 

This brings us to another way besides witchcraft 
whereby a gentleman in West Africa can throw away a 
fine fortune by paying his debts, namely, the so-called 
adultery. Adultery out there, I hastily beg to remark, 
may be only brushing against a woman in a crowded 
market place or bush path, or raising a hand in defence 
against a virago. It's the wrong word, but the custom- 
ary one to use for touching women, and it is exceedingly 
expensive and a constant source of danger to the most 

B B 2 


respectable of men, the demands made on its account 
being exorbitant : sometimes so exorbitant that I have 
known of several men who, in order to save their family 
from ruin — for if their own private property were 
insufficient to meet it the family property would be 
liable for the balance — have given themselves up as 
pawn-slaves to their accusers. 

There is but one check on this evil of frivolous and 
false accusation, and that is that when there have been 
many cases of it in a district, the cult of the Law God 
of that region gets a high moral fit on and comes down 
on that district and eats the adultery. I need not say 
that this is to the private benefit of no layman in the 
district, for notoriously it is an expensive thing to have 
the Law God down, and a thing every district tries to 
avoid. There is undoubtedly great evil in this law, 
which presses harder on private and family property 
than anything else, harder even than accusations of 
witchcraft ; but it safeguards the women, enabling them 
to go to and fro about the forest paths, and in the 
villages and market places at home, and far from home, 
without fear of molestation or insult, bar that which 
they get up amongst themselves. 

The methods employed in enforcing the payment of 
a debt are appeal to the village headman or village 
elders; or, after due warning, the seizure of property 
belonging to the debtor if possible, or if not, that of 
any other person belonging to his village will do. 
This procedure usually leads to palaver, and the elders 
decide whether the amount seized is equal to the debt or 
whether it is excessive ; if excessive the excess has to be 
returned, and there is also the appeal to the Law Society. 
In the regions of the Benin Bight we have further, as in 
India, the custom of collecting debts by Dharna. In 
West Africa the creditor who sits at the debtor's door is 
bound to bring with him food for one day, this is 
equivalent to giving notice ; after the first day the 
debtor has to supply him with food, for were he to die 
he would be answerable for his life and the worth thereof 
in addition to the original debt. If I mention that 


there is no community of goods between a man and his 
wife (women owning and holding property under 
identical conditions to men in the eye of the law), I 
think I shall have detained you more than long enough 
on the subject of the laws of property in West Africa. 
You will see that the thing that underlies them is the 
conception that every person is the member of some 
family, and all the other members of the family are 
responsible for him and to him and he to them ; and 
every family is a member of some house, and all the other 
members of the house are responsible for and to the 
families of which it is composed. 

The natural tendency of this is for property to be- 
come joint property, family property, or to be absorbed 
into family property. A man by his superior ability 
acquires, it may be, a considerable amount of private 
property, but at his death it passes into the hands of the 
family. There are Wills, but they are not the rule, and 
they more often refer to an appointment of a successor 
in position than to a disposal of effects. The common 
practice of gifts there supplies the place of Wills with 
us ; a rich man gives his friend or his favourite wife, 
child, or slave, things during his life, while he can see 
that they get it, and does not leave the matter till after 
his death. The good point about the African system is 
that it leaves no person uncared for ; there are no 
unemployed starving poor, every individual is responsible 
for and to his fellow men and women who belong to the 
same community, and the naturally strong instinct of 
hospitality, joined with the knowledge that the stranger 
within the gates belongs to a whole set of people who 
will make palaver if anything happens to him, looks well 
after the safety of wanderers in Negro land. The bad 
point is, of course, that the system is cumbersome, and, 
moreover, it tends, with the operation of the general 
African law of mutterrecht, the tracing of descent 
through females, to prevent the building up of great 
families. For example, you have a great man, wise, 
learned, just, and so on ; he is esteemed in his genera- 
tion, but at his death his property does not go to the 


sons born to him by one of his wives, who is a great 
woman of a princely line, but to the eldest son of his 
sister by the same mother as his own. This sister's 
mother and his own mother was a slave wife of his 
father's ; this, you see, keeps good blood in a continual 
state of dilution with slave blood. The son he has by 
his aristocratic wife may come in for the property of her 
brother, but her brother belongs to a different family, so 
he does not take up his father's greatness and carry it on 
with the help his father's wealth could give him in the 
father's family. I do not say the system is unjust or 
anything like that, mind ; I merely say that it does not 
tend to the production of a series of great men in one 

Nevertheless, when once you have mastered the 
simple fundamental rules that underlie the native 
African idea of property they must strike you as just, 
elaborately just ; and there is another element of sim- 
plicity in the thing, and that is that all forms of property 
are subject to the same law, land, women, china basons, 
canoes, slaves, it matters not what, there is the law. 

You will often hear of the vast stretches of country in 
Africa unowned, and open to all who choose to cultivate 
them or possess them. Well, those stretches of unowned 
land are not in West Africa. I do not pretend to know 
other parts of the continent. In West Africa there is 
not one acre of land that does not belong to some one, 
who is trustee of it, for a set of people who are themselves 
only life tenants, the real owner being the tribe in its 
past, present, and future state, away into eternity at both 
ends. But as West African land is a thing I should 
not feel, even if I had the money, anxious to acquire 
as freehold, and as you can get under native law a safe 
possession of mining and cultivation rights from the 
representatives living of the tribe they belong to, I do 
not think that any interference is urgently needed with 
a system fundamentally just. 

After having said so much on African native property, 
it may be as well to say what African property consists 
of. It is not necessary for me to go into the affair very 


fully, but you will remember, I am sure, the old state- 
ment of " women and slaves constitute the wealth of an 
African." The African himself would tell you nine 
times in ten that women and slaves caused him the lack 
of it. Still they are undoubtedly a factor in the true 
Negro's wealth, but to consider them property it is 
necessary to consider them as property in different 
classes. Here and now I need only divide them into 
two classes — wives properly so-called, and male and 
female slaves. The duty of the slave is to increase 
directly the wealth of his or her owner — that of the wife 
to increase it also, but in a different manner, namely, 
by bringing her influence to bear for his advantage among 
her own family and among the people of the district she 
lives in. A big chief will have three or more of these 
wives, each of them living in her own house, or in the 
culture state of Calabar, in her own yard in his house, 
having her own farm away in the country, where she 
goes at planting and harvest times. She possesses her 
own slaves and miscellaneous property, which includes 
her children, and the main part of this property is really 
the property of her family, just as most people's property 
is in West Africa. The husband will reside with each 
of these wives in turn, yet he has a home of his own, 
with his slave wives, and his children properly so called, 
similarly having his own farm and miscellaneous 
property, which again belongs mainly to his family, 
and this house is usually presided over by his mother, 
or failing her a favourite sister. 

The immediate rule of a husband over his wife may 
be likened to that of a constitutional monarch, that of a 
man or woman over a slave to that of an absolute 
monarch, though true absolutism is in the Negro State- 
form not to be found in any individual man. The 
nearest approach to it is, very properly, in the hands of 
the cult of the Law God, the tribal secret society, but even 
from that society the individual can appeal, if he dare, 
to Long Ju Ju. 

The other forms of wealth possessed by an African, 
his true wealth, are market rights, utensils, canoes, arms, 

376 AFRICAN PROPERTY chap, xviii 

furniture, land, and trade goods. It is in his capacity 
to command these things in large quantities that his 
wealth lies, it is his wives and slaves who enable and 
assist him to do this thing. So take the whole together 
and you will see how you can have a very rich African, 
rich in the only way it is worth while being rich in, 
power, yet a man who possibly could not pay you down 
£20, but a real millionaire for all that. 


I HAD once the interesting experience of seeing a 
West African chief come in to pay a fine that had 
been laid on his district in consequence of its having 
killed and eaten three native Communicants of a Roman 
Catholic Mission on their way to their homes. The 
payment of that fine consisted of a hundred balls of 
indiarubber, six teeth (elephant tusks), four bundles of 
pissava fibre, three Odeaka cheeses, a canoe, a collection 
of iron swords, two English china basins, ten billets of 
ebony, a canoe load of cam wood mixed with billets of 
bar wood as an adulteration, and five ladies in rather 
bad repair. My friend the official, who was new to 
West Africa, said : " Would you come, Miss Kingsley, 
and look at the museum that has just arrived ? " On 
observing it I remarked : " My dear sir, this is the pay- 
ment of the fine ; it's good value and quite correct." 
"That's what they say," he replied, "and, my dear 
madam, I can understand it up to a certain point, 

but " " Well, what point ? " I inquired. " Those 

ladies," he replied. " They are quite correct," I said. 
"Correct?" he ejaculated. I hastily added, " From a 
scientific point of view." 

He said something about ladies in that state of dilapi- 
dation being possibly correct enough, but still undesirable 

1 Reprinted by permission from the Morning Post, July, 1898. 


as far as he personally was concerned. So I advised 
him to, what we call in the trade language of that 
locality, " room the bundle " and get ivory in lieu of 
the ladies and the small stuff — the curios — as he flip- 
pantly called the swords and cheeses ; and he gladly 
acted on the suggestion. I was called in later on, 
however, because this official, doubtless from the natural 
gallantry of his nation, put a far higher equivalent value 
on the ladies than the local view, which was their true 
worth. Now I have the honour of speaking to you of 
property in a state of society where such collections of 
articles as those aforesaid are legal tender, where each 
article is known to have a definite value, and where 
you can — if it pleases you — change any one of them 
for an article of equivalent value or for several articles 
that make up that value, where you can change a lady 
into so many iron axe-heads or so many balls of rubber 
or elephant teeth, or vice versa. 

I venture to think that the consideration of the nature 
of property in this African state of society is worthy of 
your close and earnest attention — for at present the 
whole of Tropical Africa is one seething mass of dis- 
content and hidden and open rebellion against European 
rule, entirely because European rule collides with the 
native African view of the Principles of Property. Un- 
fortunately this subject of property in Africa has not 
been one that has received of late years much attention, 
and, therefore, I have but little modern support for the 
dicta I must lay down. The period of the past thirty 
years has been one of great enterprise and heroic 
endeavour directed towards the solution of the geo- 
graphical problems of Africa, the fixing of the points 
of latitude and longitude, the courses of rivers and the 
situation of lakes, &c, a very noble and necessary work. 
Not to the blame of the famous African travellers, 
but nevertheless unfortunately, European Govern- 
ments have also during this period endeavoured, with 
great enterprise and heroism, to superimpose their 
actual control on the African populations. Had this 
endeavour been made by the European States in the 


seventeenth century there is but little doubt it could 
have been carried through successfully, because the 
seventeenth century had in its possession an enormous 
mass of knowledge — sound knowledge — regarding the 
conditions of the African. This information has now 
naturally enough passed out of memory of the European 
States, no state having apparently a memory that can 
go back even fifty years, and, therefore, Africa is being 
dealt with on lines based on the work of those great 
geographers of recent times whose mighty deeds are 
fascinating to us all. 

But still, we, who study the African more than we 
study the geography of his country, are an old tribe. 
So far as we know, our primal ancestor is Herodotus. 
The next great chief I need mention now is John Leo, 
a Moor born in Granada about 1494, and brought up in 
Barbarie ; to him follow that flush of our great chiefs, 
Sieur Brue, Bosman, Merolla de Sorrento, Barbot, and 
many others in the seventeenth and early eighteenth 
centuries ; and then comes El Haji Abd Salaam, 
Shabeeny, and in our own time such men as Bastian, 
Buckholtz, Hiibbe Schleiden, Callaway, and Sir A. B. 
Ellis. Therefore I beg to hope that we — if I may in all 
humbleness class myself with such a man as John Leo, 
commonly called Leo Africanus — are still a strong tribe 
that may look forward to great chiefs yet to come. 
Yet I am bound to own we have not done much good. 
It was indeed our tribe that made the trade of Europe 
with Africa possible, for you cannot trade without a 
knowledge of the ways of your customers. It remains 
to be seen whether you can govern without a knowledge 
of the nature of those for whom you legislate. The 
attempt is now being energetically carried on in Africa ; 
meanwhile we, who are not explorers of Africa — because 
we never exactly know where we go, and we never 
exactly care — give a certain amount of interesting 
information to the builders of that modern science, 
Comparative Ethnology ; but we are not comparative 
ethnologists ourselves, and therefore I respectfully beg 
you to allow me to consider this question of African 


property, not from a comparative ethnological stand- 
point, but from one more natural to my tribe. 

Plato says that property is the basis of the State, but 
Aristotle, as you will remember, traverses this statement, 
and regards it merely as one of the things indispensable 
to a State, and gives his masterly enumeration of the 
functions of the State to bear out his view. These 
functions are : First, there must be food ; second, arts of 
life require many instruments ; third, there must be 
arms, for the members of the community have need of 
them in order to maintain authority both against dis- 
obedient subjects and against external assailments ; 
fourth, there must be a certain amount of revenue, both 
for internal needs and purposes of war ; fifthly (or rather 
firstly), there must be a care of religion, what is com- 
monly called worship ; sixth (and most necessary of all, 
says Aristotle), there must be a power of deciding what 
is for the public interest and what is just in men's 
dealings with one another. These are the things which 
every State may be said to need ; for a State is not 
a mere aggregate of persons, but a union of them 
sufficing for the purposes of life, and if any of these 
things were wanting it is simply impossible that a 
community can be self-sufficing. A State, then, should 
be framed with a view to the fulfilment of these func- 
tions. Now the people of Africa that I have personally 
studied, those from Sierra Leone to Angola, below the 
Congo, live in a form of society possessing all these 
functions of the State of Aristotle ; therefore I venture 
to apply to the African form of society Aristotle's word 
State. I do not mean to say that Aristotle would 
approve of the mechanism of the African State, but 
he would recognise it as a State and understand it, and 
see whereby it could be improved, and I can certainly 
say that all of Aristotle's views that I have propounded 
to the Africans — suitably translated into trade English 
or native words — have always been accepted by them 
as good and sound views — views, indeed, singularly, 
weirdly sensible for a white man to possess. Plato's 
opinions, on the other hand, I soon abandoned. They 


only got me into discredit as a visionary at the best ; 
and as for " the Republic," with its ideas about com- 
munity of goods and ladies, well, if I had gone about 
preaching that propaganda things would have happened 
to me that would have prevented me detaining you here 
now ; but Aristotle is always good law. 

I can assure you that no book on Ethnology can give 
you so true a view of the essence of West African State 
thought as that glorious manifestation of human wis- 
dom — the Politics of Aristotle. Such being the case, I 
now turn to the consideration of those functions of a 
State to show you that functions it is now my business 
to speak to you about, and I find, to our mutual regret, 
there is not one function of the State, not even religion 
itself, that in the African State is disconnected entirely 
with property. I am not sure whether this might not 
be said even of European States — for property to all 
men is much what matter is to spirit — a thing whereby 
work can be done. In this work, if you will allow 
me to use the simile of the steam engine, I may say 
property is the steam, and then you will see that 
steam is the instrument which the truly great man, 
black, white or yellow, uses to obtain his ends ; it is 
not the great man himself. So Letonneau is right 
when he says : " Property is the great social main- 
spring," and there is no great political revolution but 
is co-related with some modification of the right of 
property ; no metamorphosis of this right which does 
not bring with it a political transformation, and, above 
all, Aristotle is, as usual, right, and I think none of 
us who read him can help thinking that if ever a great 
man was wasted on wooden-headed humanity it was the 
" Stagyrite," as Mr. Gibbon calls him. 

Having stated that the form of Society under which 
the natives of Western Africa live is a form of Society 
to which the term State must be applied, because it 
satisfies all the essential functions of the State required 
by Aristotle, I must proceed briefly to describe the nature 
of the West African State. Now there is a good deal of 
the West Coast of Africa. You cannot — as an eminent 


friend of mine was requested by his Mission Society to 
do — preach in the Gambia at morning service and con- 
duct evening service on the Gold Coast. At least, you 
cannot do so until science has gone ahead a bit more, 
and enabled us to telegraph a man whole. And also 
there are a good many different kinds of West African 
natives. The writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries used to divide up " the natives of Afrik " into 
four sections — the White Moors, the Tawny Moors, the 
Black Moors (whence our old word Blackeymoor),andthe 
Negroes. We have nowadays to add two more divisions, 
at any rate — the Bantu and the Pigmy. But as far as 
it went, the fifteenth century division was quite correct. 
But Great Britain has only to deal in West Africa with 
the Black Moor and the true Negro. She has only just 
a dash of Tawny Moor in the Upper Niger. France 
has the balance of them, and they are just exactly the 
right sort of people for an excitable and energetic sort 
of man like my French friend to tackle. The Black 
Moor and the true Negro ought by nature to get on 
well with my fellow countrymen, they being common- 
sense, commercial sort of people — Mol/usces, as the 
French call them, in contra-distinction to the Microbe, 
tawny varieties. 

I will not now go into the State form of the Tawny 
Moors, the Bantu, or the Pigmy, as Great Britain has 
no interest in them in West Africa, but will confine 
myself to the True Negro. The Black Moor, in whom 
she has a painful interest just now to the north of 
Sierra Leone Colony, and with whom she has had 
frequent rows to the north of the Gold Coast, is in the 
arms of Islam, and largely influenced by Mohammedan 
law. His State form, however, is primarily identical 
with that of the True Negro. The True Negro State 
form is one of considerable interest to the student of 
early law. When I selected Western Africa as the best 
schoolroom to study this interesting subject in, I spent 
some time in finding out in which district the primal 
Negro law and State form could be found in its most 
unaltered state of full development, and found it was in 


the Oil Rivers, a much maligned spot as regards beauty 
and even health, compared with other West African 
regions. The True Negro, as you know, lives in those 
lands from just south of Gambia to Cameroons River, 
extending within the land as far as dense forest goes 
and no further, because those Tawny Microbes make the 
semi-desert, open country of the Western Soudan un- 
healthy for a quiet commercial man. The Black Moor 
can hold his own on the northern edge of the forest, but 
it is cheerful work for him, and he has to fall back into 
dense forest every now and again to rest, just keeping 
his hand in by stirring up the True Negro as his ex- 
Majesty of Ashanti and Samory did. 

We will just bear these general politics in mind, and 
then proceed to observe the True Negro State at its 
fullest condition of development in the Oil Rivers. 
This State I know is best termed a limited monarchy, 
though a republic with a slave class is almost equally a 
correct name for it. For many of the so-called kings 
of these countries are by no manner of means kings over 
the districts we credit them with ; they are but heads of 
their own houses, and for the rest, have but that au- 
thority over their neighbours that their wealth and 
reputation for wisdom and justice give them. This 
authority has in many cases led the other big men of a 
district to leave the direction of trade matters with 
Europeans in the hands of one house-chief. Still, the 
State power of the district — the issuing of general laws, 
the punishment of sin (not crime : that falls into the 
hands of the house-chief in whose house it is commit- 
ted) — is in the hands of the Cult of the Law God, the 
so-called tribal Secret Society. This state of things 
produces a certain, what one might call, complexity in 
politics, and I think an excellent preparation for its 
study is a consideration of the Italian States from the 
thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. For you have in 
West Africa the same varying interests, jostling each 
other ; and behind them, binding them in a way to- 
gether, liable to pounce in on their affairs, a power that 
must never be forgotten, a power that the meanest 


citizen, man or women, can any hour of the day or 
night call in to crush the proudest. 

This power, which is undoubtedly the upholder of 
Justice, is the Cult of the Law God — Purroh, Oru, Egbo, 
Idione, call it what you will. For example, a person 
with a grievance in a district under Egbo has only to 
rush into the street, look out for a gentleman connected 
with the Egbo Society, slap him on the waistcoat place, 
and that gentleman has then and there at once to drop 
any private affair of his own he may be engaged in, call 
together the Grade of Egbo he belongs to — there are 
eleven grades of varying power — and go into the case. 
Or, if an Egbo gentleman is not immediately get-at-able, 
the complainant has only to rush to the Egbo House — 
there is one in every town — and beat the Egbo drum, 
and out comes the Egbo Grade, who have charge for 
that day. The great Law God Cult is, like all others 
of its kind, in the hands only of free men, with an 
affiliated Society of free women. But there is on diplo- 
matic terms with it, wherever there is a great slave 
population, a Slave Law Society. This Society, like the 
Women's Society, is well under the Free Men's Society, 
but if there is a wholesale ill treatment of slaves it rises 
up and slaughters free citizens, though this is a very rare 
occurrence. The powerful citizen in this state of society 
makes it unhealthy for any inferior to call out the Law 
God — therefore it is only done in desperation, the in- 
ferior Grades mainly depending on private enterprise, 
working on the goodwill of their owner or husband, or 
on that of his friend or favourite wife. 

I have had to detain you on this Tribal Secret Society, 
because there seems to be a tendency to consider it 
identical with the Leopard and other murder societies, 
which it is not. You might just as well, for example, 
regard the Woolsack as an institution identical with a 
gang of burglars as regard Purroh and Kufong, or, as it 
is more commonly but erroneously called, Fangaree, as 
identical institutions. Or, again, it is just as wrong to 
confound the Law God Cult with the Fetish Priests 
serving Sag Tando, as to regard the Woolsack as iden- 


tical with the Bench of Bishops. These various classes 
of Societies in Western Africa, just like classes at home, 
are on anything but excellent terms with one another. 
The interaction of these Societies and of the States 
under them go to the making of general internal politics 
throughout the true Negro Region. For the perfect 
form, as I have already explained in the previous 
chapter, you must go to the Oil Rivers. In the Sierra 
Leone Northern region it is knocked about a good deal 
by Islam. In the Sierra Leone Southern region the 
Secret Societies of all sorts seem to have got the upper 
hand too much, but neither of these districts has been 
observed by a competent ethnologist. On the Gold 
Coast the long-continued (143 5- 1900) European influ- 
ence has mainly tended to disorganisation of the Native 
State form and an undue growth of the power of the 
individual Chief, and the distinction of his power. But 
if you carefully study the valuable works of Sir A. B. 
Ellis, Bastian, and Buchholtz, and Mr. Sarbah's Fanti 
Customary Law, recently published, I think you will 
see that the primal State form is that which exists in 
the Oil Rivers, namely, the House system. This system 
I have already described in previous chapters, and again 
on p. 398, but a most elaborate and accurate account 
of it is given in M. le Comte de Cardi's appendix to the 
first edition of these West African Studies. 

Having now attempted to sketch the typical form 
of the True Negro State, I pass on to a brief outline 
of the condition in which property exists in such a 
State. Property there is firmly governed, as far as my 
own knowledge goes, and as far as extensive reading 
of the works of explorers in Central and East Africa 
enables me to judge, by the same set of ideas, and 
is divisible into three kinds: 1. Ancestral property con- 
nected with the office of Headmanship, the Stool as 
the true Negroes call it, the Cap as it is called in the 
wreckage of the Kingdom of Kongo. 2. Family pro- 
perty in which every member of the family has a certain 
share. 3. Private property — that which is acquired or 
made by a man or woman's own personal exertion, that 

C C 


gained by gifts, and that made in trade by the exercise 
of superior ability. Every one of these forms of pro- 
perty is equally sacred in the eyes of the African Law. 

The property of the Stool must be worked for the 
Stool. Working it well, adding to it, increases the im- 
portance of the Stool and makes the King who occupies 
it popular, but every profit made on it belongs, like 
itself, to the Stool. No individual King or occupier 
of the Headmanship can alienate that property for his 
personal advantage — hence comes one of the reasons 
why it does not matter much whether it be free man or 
slave who is King. The same holds good for family 
property. As for private property, which is the Urstuff 
— as the Germans would call it — out of which other 
forms of property spring, that is no less legally sacred 
in the African State. I do not know from my own in- 
vestigations, nor from any information I have gleaned, 
any King, Priesthood, or man who would openly be able 
to interfere with the private property of the veriest slave 
in his district, or diocese, or household. This may seem 
a risky thing to say, but it is not ; and I feel I could 
make quite a little fortune by getting people to bet on 
it. Such an arrangement is impossible in the columns 
of the Morning Post, however, so I have to sacrifice this 
golden opportunity and to reveal without pecuniary 
advantage the secret that when a person's private pro- 
perty is taken during peace, it is always taken under 
the justification of its being already forfeited. Doubtless 
I should have had, if I could have arranged that betting 
transaction, dozens of cases wherein people knew of all 
kinds and conditions of Africans having everything they 
possessed cleared out by their fellow citizens or owners ; 
but investigation would have shown that the individual 
so cleared out had already reduced himself or herself 
legally to a bankrupt, before he or she fell into the hands 
of the Official Receiver. 

He, or she — the sex is not behindhand in such matters 
— had been convicted of bewitching somebody, whereby 
it fell out that his or her estate was forfeited to the State. 
Every form of property in Africa is liable to be called 


on to meet its just debts, and the witch's debt is a heavy- 
one. For not only does the witch owe to the family of 
the person for whose killing he or she is convicted the 
price of that life, but it is felt by the community that he 
or she has not been found out in the first offence : every 
miscellaneous affliction that has recently happened has 
been his or her work. Mind you, I do not say these 
claims are paid out of the estate of the witch deceased — 
witches are always deceased with the utmost despatch 
by the authorities after conviction — because the said 
property has by this time got into the hands of official- 
dom during the trial, and has a natural tendency to stay 
there. But one thing is certain about the estate of a 
witch, and this is that none of it is left for his relatives. 
Not that they would, for the matter of that, dare to claim 
it, on account of the fear of being involved with him or 
her in the accusation of witchcraft. Still, legally, the 
witch's relatives have the consolation of knowing that 
— if things go smoothly, and if they evade being accused 
of complicity in the crime — they cannot be called on to 
meet the debts incurred by the witch. The reason of 
this delicate little point, I am ashamed to say, gave me 
more trouble to find out than was necessary, for the 
explanation was simple, namely, that the witch's body 
had been taken over by the creditors. 

The subject of women is one I habitually avoid except 
when it concerns dress. Still women cannot be ignored 
in even the briefest sketch of African property, and you 
cannot confine yourself to dress when it comes to the 
ladies of those regions, unless, indeed, you are foolish 
enough to believe their husbands on the point, a thing 
which I, as a calm observer, am unable to do, since the 
outside evidence is dead against the husband's state- 
ments, that he is a ruined man from the way he weakly, 
but amiably, gives in to incessant demands on him for 
costumes, frills, and furbelows. Well, I own I like 
African women ; we have always got on together. 
True, they have made some spiteful remarks on my 

C C 2 


complexion, but I must ignore these in the face of the 
thousand kindnesses for which I am their debtor. 

I remember one late afternoon when, having gone for 
a walk many hours before and got myself badly lost in 
the forest, I found myself facing a village clearing, a 
village which I did not know, but one which I saw from 
certain signs was at war with the village I had left, and 
lost. Not that this was any definite geographical help, 
because for the matter of that pretty near all the villages 
in the country were — on account, my village said, of 
their iniquity. However, this particular enemy-village 

I had arrived at had guarding its gate two warriors, 
splendid creatures, good six-footers, painted, armed with 
four spears apiece, and having their hair magnificently 
plaited into horns — quite the Lords of Creation. I 
deployed and took bearings, to combine military and 
marine phraseology, but deciding that there was nothing 
else for it, came at last cautiously out of the bush, and 
gave those guardians greeting. They stared at me. 

II Ndege wa ma yi some " I said again. They turned as 
one man and fled into the village, I after them through 
the gateway, intent on reaching a little spot inside where 
I knew I was safe until I had said my say ; and I just 
caught a back view of those gentlemen going through 
the door-hole of a house at the further end of the street. 
Now going through the door-hole of a Fan hut when 
hurried is not easy as a solo, but as a duet it presents 
far greater difficulties ; and yet they managed it, and in 
a few moments out of that same door-hole came, not 
warriors armed with guns and thirsting for blood — gore, 
I believe, is the fashionable word to use for West Africa — 
but a quiet old lady. It was evident those warriors had 
just been " to tell mother." Of course, had I been a 
dozen men, or an elephant or anything reasonable, they 
would have laid down their lives in attempting to kill 
me before disturbing her ; but, as I was queer, something 
they were not accustomed to, they most wisely went to 
consult her first. There was no cowardice in this, for 
those men were incapable of cowardice, as I learnt by 
subsequent experience of them. Indeed they were the 


two men whom, when I was once alone with them, I saw 
do the bravest thing even I have ever seen men do, and 
the while I wished myself in Dixie they never turned a 
hair. Still, on my first arrival they referred me to their 
mother to explain my intentions, and we succeeded in 
getting things satisfactorily settled. We subsequently 
got things satisfactorily settled between the two villages, 
which was better for both of them and for trade, and 
this and many similar incidents confirmed me in the 
belief that women have power and position in Africa. 

The African woman has also very pretty and engaging 
manners, as the first one I ever met alone taught me. It 
was down by Cabenda in the South, and she was a lovely 
creature on a lonely sandy shore. We cannot write to 
each other, but I know she thinks of me, and I have her 
photograph. She was young, beautiful, possessed of a 
baby and a basket full of fishes, but she was so obviously 
miserable that it worried me. A survey of the baby 
assured me that it was all right, another of the fish that 
they were satisfactory ; but still there she was definitely 
sitting on the sand disconsolate. So seeing she was 
alone and unharmed, I tried some of the local language 
that I had been trying to acquire on her : she did not 
understand it, but gave greeting and kept on looking 
wretched. This necessitated a re-survey of the 
situation, which showed me what I ought to have 
noticed at once, namely, that she was looking at a 
large crab-hole. Now you cannot catch a large crab 
without a trap unless there are two of you, so I promptly 
made for the fringing shore bush and cut a suitable 
pronged stick, and returned to put my finger carefully 
into the crab-hole. Had there been a local newspaper, 
and had she been on the staff and had a telegraph 
office handy, she would doubtless have rushed away and 
telegraphed, " Strange case of Intelligence in a White," 
but these things were not. Consequently I only 
electrified her personally, and to make a long story 
short we cheerily and noisily dug that crab out. It was 
what I believe small boys would term a " whopper," and 
she caught it as I could not have done, and beamed 


radiantly until her better feelings took possession, 
whereon she reluctantly offered the crab to me. I was 
far too hot by then to talk strange languages, so I 
dramatically gave her to understand I did not want it, 
and the " honour/' &c. Still, she insisted on my having 
a few fish and we parted ; but on my apologetically 
drifting into the local market place next day I was 
seized on by her and introduced, and the market rang 
with her account of the affair, and I found in after 
days that I was welcome in all the villages round, 
which gave me pleasure and opportunities of improving 
my education which but for her I should not have had. 
From these things and many like them I can say 
nothing against the African woman, but yet it is an un- 
doubted fact that she has imposed on the male explorer, 
and caused him to give the idea that the African woman 
is the down-trodden fool of Creation who is treated 



The inter-relationship between the religion and the 
law of the natives of West Africa is an exceedingly 
difficult study, for many reasons, and I feel great 
diffidence in attempting to explain it in anything 
under a folio volume. My diffidence does not arise 
from a sense of any lack of material, nor from any lack 
of importance in the subject, but from a feeling 
of personally not being sufficiently powerful to group 
and arrange the facts concerned so as to present them 
to you in a concise and coherent form. 

The truth is, African Native Law is in much the same 
condition regarding the knowledge of it in England, as 
the knowledge of Indian Law was before the time of 
Sir William Jones. It is a vast unopened treasure- 
house of knowledge. You have to help you in your 
study of the subject few forerunners. You have no 
fellow-students among Englishmen, now that Sir A. 
B. Ellis, the pioneer in our study of native institutions 
in West Africa, is no more. You have in Germany, 
it is true, fellow-students like Prof. Kohler, but even 
among the Germans, to whom I instinctively turn in 
difficulty because of the patience and soundness of 
their work, I find no attempt in this relation to cope 
with the great underlying principles which it is neces- 
sary to understand before you can comprehend the 

1 Lecture given at Oxford, June 4th, 1897, for the Hibbert 
Trustees, and now published with their consent. 


bearings of the details which are afforded by individual 
cases ; I feel in fact the want of authorities of great 
value like Sir Henry Maine, Sir Alfred Lyall, and 
Savigny, whose works are bases from which students can 
advance in the study of the early law of Europe, India, 
and Rome. There are for the student of African 
Native Law, as far as I can find, but three printed 
authorities of value. First come the chapters on Law 
in the works of Sir A. B. Ellis on the Tschwi, Ewe and 
Youba, peoples of the Bight of Benin ; for the accuracy 
of his observations I can vouch, from having myself 
dealt with much of his original material (namely the 
tribes in question), and I feel that his work must be 
known by heart by the student of African Law ; never- 
theless, I am quite unable to agree with Mr. Jevons 
when he says 1 regarding Fetishism, " that it is cer- 
tainly amongst the inhabitants of the Gold and Slave 
Coasts that the subject can best be studied." These 
Coasts are, I grant, the best place for a student to draw 
his information from — who is a resident in Europe, and 
therefore dependent on the accounts given by others of 
the things with which he is dealing — because of the ac- 
curacy and extent of the information he can get from 
Ellis's works ; but apart from Ellis's works, the value of 
these regions to a student of Native Law and Religion 
is but of tenth-rate importance, because of the great and 
long continued infusion of both Mohammedan and 
European forms of thought that have taken place 
with the original native form of thought in these 
regions ; owing to the long-continued, if small, thought 
influence of the white settlements on the Coast of the 
Bight of Benin and the yet longer continued and more 
extensive permeation of Mohammedan thought from 
the Arabised Western Soudan. 

Our second authority is Professor Kohler's all too 
small pamphlet " Uber das Negerrecht." 2 This is 
founded on German Colonial Jahrbuchs — " Uber die 

1 Introduction to the History of Religion, page 164. 

2 Uber das Negerrecht namentlich in Kamerun. Prof. Dr. J. 


Stamme in Kamerun " — which Dr. Kohler has studied 
and compared most carefully with the accounts of laws 
and customs given by divers travellers, recent and not 
recent, who have written on West Africa and other 
savage regions. 

Our third, and in many ways most important docu- 
ment of all, is Mr. Sarbar's volume on " Fanti Custom- 
ary Law," recently published. It is, however, necessary 
to remember that this collection of law cases bears 
only on the law of the Tschwi and Ga-speaking people 
of the Gold Coast, both of them true Negro, and the 
true Negro, alike in manners laws and religious dogma, 
differs considerably from the Bantu. To form a clear 
conception of native law in West Africa, as a whole, 
without going out there and studying it yourself, you 
must compare Mr. Sarbar's cases with the cases cited 
in the German " Jahrbuchs in Kamerun." This will 
not give you an extremely accurate idea, for therein, 
though the cases are collected from a Bantu tribe, yet 
that tribe — the Dualla — is largely influenced by true 
Negro customs. For pure Bantu law and pure Negro 
law there is no printed collection of cases, so I must 
now venture to fall back on my own personal observa- 
tions made during my two visits to West Africa, merely 
stating that I have been down the Coast as far as 
Loanda and know much of it in detail, and have lived 
amongst Negro tribes who are in an uncivilised state, 
behind Calabar and Cameroon, and among Bantu tribes, 
quite untouched by European or Arab culture, in Congo 

The essential thing that you must understand when 
you attempt to understand any West African native 
institution is the religion of the native, for this religion 
has so firm a grasp upon his mind that it influences 
everything he does. It is not a thing apart, as the 
religion of the European is at times. The African 
cannot say, " Oh, that's all right from a religious point 
of view, but one must be practical." To be practical, to 
get on in the world, to live the day or night through, he 
must be right in the religious point of view, namely, he 


must be on working terms with the great world of spirits 
around him. The knowledge of this spirit world con- 
stitutes the religion of the African, and his customs and 
ceremonies arise from his idea of the best way to 
influence it. 

As the term Fetish is* that accepted for African 
religion by ethnologists here, I will use it, but I have 
elsewhere gone into the subject of the origin of this 
word and its non-recognition by the Africans. 

As to the notion of the conception of the relation- 
ship of the spirit-world with earthly affairs held by the 
African, I find it most clearly set down in these words, 
the words of one of the greatest philosophers that the 
world has ever produced, I mean Spinoza. " To say 
everything happens according to natural laws, and to 
say that everything is ordained by the decree and or- 
dinance of God is the same thing. Now, since the 
power in Nature is identical with the power of God, 
by which alone all things happen and are determined, 
it follows that whatsoever man, as part of Nature, 
provides himself with, to aid and preserve his existence, 
or whatsoever Nature provides him with without his 
help, is given to him solely by the Divine Power, acting 
either through human nature or through external cir- 
cumstance, so whatever human nature can furnish itself 
with by its own efforts to preserve its existence may 
be fitly called the inward aid of God, whereas whatever 
else accrues to man's profit from outward causes may 
be called the external aid of God." 1 Further on, 
Spinoza says, "By fortune I mean the ordinance of 
God so far as it directs human life through external 
and unexpected means." Herein you can read the 
religion of the African if you will but change the word 
God into the word spirits. 

To the African the Universe is made up of Matter 
permeated by Spirit. Everything happens by the action 
of Spirit The thing he does himself is done by the 
spirit within him acting on his body, the matter with 
which that Spirit is associated ; everything that is done 
1 Tractatus Theologico-politicus.. 


by other things is done by their spirit associated with 
their particular mass of matter ; and one of the great 
fundamental doctrines of Fetish is that the association 
of one particular spirit with one particular mass of 
matter is not permanent. The native will point out to 
you a lightning-stricken tree and tell you its spirit has 
been killed. He will tell you, when the earthen cooking 
pot is broken, it has lost its spirit. If his weapon fails 
him it is because some one has stolen or made its spirit 
sick by means of his influence on other spirits of the 
same class — it is a case of witchcraft. In every action 
of his life he shows you how he lives with a great 
powerful spirit world around him. You see him before 
starting out to hunt or fight rubbing stuff into his 
weapon to strengthen the spirit that is in it ; telling it 
the while what care he has taken of it ; running through 
a list of what he has given it before, though those things 
had been hard to give ; and begging it, in the hour of 
his dire necessity, not to fail him. " Go not away from 
me." You see him bending over the face of the river 
talking to its spirit with proper incantations, asking it 
when it meets an enemy of his to upset his canoe and 
destroy him, or to carry down with it, as in the 'Ndok 
ceremony of the Effeks, the malignant souls of unburied 
human beings ; or, as I have seen myself in Congo 
Francaise, to take down with it, away from his village, 
the pestilence of the spotted death. 

How man first gained his belief that there were more 
actors in the nature drama than he himself is a 
consideration I will leave to others. But, however this 
may be, from the view of Nature as made up of Matter 
influenced by Spirit, I am sure the general idea arose, 
which you will find in all early forms of culture, that 
death is the consequence, in most cases, of the action of 
a malignant spirit. If a man is knocked on the head 
with a club, or shot by an arrow or bullet, the cause of 
death is clearly the malignancy of persons using these 
weapons ; and so it is easy to think that a man killed 
by the falling of a tree, or by the upsetting of a canoe in 
the surf, or in a whirlpool in the river, is also a victim 




of some being using these things as weapons. For a 
man holding this view it seems to me both natural and 
easy to regard disease as a manifestation of the wrath 
of some invisible being, and to construct that intricate 
system which we find among the Africans and agree 
to call Witchcraft, Fetish, or Juju. He knows that for 
a consideration you can get another man to kill or injure 
a third party, and he thinks that, also for a consideration, 
you can get one of those non-human beings we call gods 
or devils, but which the African regards in another light, 
to do the same. 

I soon saw, when I first visited West Africa, from the 
abundant evidence around me of his belief in this vast 
spirit-world as influencing the native in his actions and 
customs (evidence having full confirmation in all books 
regarding West Africa that we possess), that in order to 
understand details of the things I saw done, and not 
done, I must gain a knowledge of the opinion held by 
the native regarding the spirit-world, and in this matter 
I owe much to Dr. Nassau, of the American Presbyterian 
Mission at Gaboon and Batanga, for he possesses an 
infinitely superior knowledge of the native languages, and 
his experience of the people dates from 185 1 — more than 
forty years of careful, sympathetic work. His opinion is 
that the spirits whose actions bear directly or indirectly 
on human affairs may be classified into six classes : — 

1. Human disembodied spirits — Manu. 

2. Vague beings, well described by our term ghosts — 

3. Beings something like dryads, who resent intrusion 
into their territory — Imbuiri. 

4. Beings who are agents in causing sickness and 
either aid or hinder human plans — Mionde. 

5. A class allied to the ancient Lares and Penates, 
who especially belong to the household and descend b] 
inheritance with the family. 

6. A class which Dr. Nassau says may, however, be 
only a function of any of the other classes, namely, those 
that enter into an animal body, generally into that of a 
leopard. Sometimes the spirits of human beings can do 


this, and the animal thus guided by human intelligence 
will exercise its strength for the purposes of its temporary 
human possessors. 

Regarding this classification of Dr. Nassau's, I can 
only say that I think you will find it hold good for all 
West Africa. You will find other spirits not mentioned 
in it, but they are those who take no interest in human 
affairs, so we are not now concerned with them in regard 
to law, but mainly with the class 4, the Mionde, and the 
class 5, the family Fetishes ; for the Mionde — the spirits 
who are put into charms, and who are the powers of 
witches — are a main cause of trouble, and class 5, the 
family spirits, — the guardians of the family — are the 
ones we meet with in the law of property. 

I fear I have detained you too long on this subject of 
Fetish, but it is really essential to a comprehending of 
much of the law itself, and absolutely essential to 
understanding how the law is enforced in a state of 
society like that of the native West African — a state of 
society which possesses no policeman in human form. 
The spirits are the police force, and I beg you will not 
think that they are therefore easier to deal with, for they 
are not. Your human policeman can be evaded or 
outrun if you steal a few potatoes from a field, but the 
spirit policeman cannot be so circumvented when he 
hangs, done up in a bit of rag or put inside a little horn, 
on guard over an African farm. He will most certainly 
have you, and you will swell up and " bust." 

I must now ask you to turn your attention to the 
construction of native society in states uninfluenced by 
European culture. The state of society when European 
interference comes into it, saying, on the one hand, 
" We intend to maintain native law," and then proceed- 
ing to disregard the important factors of the inheritance 
through the mother, and the difference between the rights 
of free men and slaves, is both weird and curious, but not 
our affair now. 

Among the true Negroes of the West Coast of Africa, 
a so-called system of slavery is the essential basis of 
society. Among the Bantus of the West Coast it is not 


essential from the point of view of law. Do not imagine, 
however, that I am praising the Bantu at the expense of 
the Negro, because I doubt whether it is really more 
moral to kill and eat prisoners of war or criminals than 
to keep them in a state of servitude guarded by rights. 
Indeed, among the Bantus the study of law is more 
difficult than among the true Negroes ; for below Came- 
roon you will find in one district a slave-holding tribe 
like the Igalwa, and in the immediate neighbourhood a 
non-slave-holding tribe like the Fans. In one district 
you will find the entire tribe under one great king, who 
rules many subsidiary princes, as among the Fjorts, while 
in another tribe each village is a thing in itself with a 
general sort of law running through the whole tribe 
as far as regards the law of inheritance, the duties 
of relationship, and the conduct of commercial inter- 
course, as among the Fans and Bakele. Such being 
the state of affairs, I will confine myself to sketching 
briefly, first the constitution of society among a pure 
Negro tribe ; secondly, that among a pure Bantu. 

The natives of Calabar and of Brass and Opobo and 
Bonny Rivers are divided up into what they term 
Houses. These Houses are bound together in religious 
law by a common Long Ju Ju ; and into groups by 
their secret societies, which have certain points of 
difference, but in the main enforce the same set of 

The House is a collection of individuals — I cannot 
say human beings, because the very dogs and canoes, &c, 
are part of it in the eye of the law, and capable of em- 
broiling it, or advancing its interests by their actions. 
It is presided over by a so-called king, and beneath him 
are four classes, which we will take in order of influence, 
i.e., rank. 

ist. There are the free relations of the king, if he him- 
self be a free man, which is not always the case ; if he 
be a slave — virtually a trustee — the free people of the 
family he is trustee for. 

2nd. Free people who have placed themselves under 
the protection of the House, rendering it in return for 


the assistance and protection of the House service on 

3rd. The trade boys, a true slave section, yet having 
great power, as they trade for the House and increase its 
power by riches. They are requisitioned each trade 
season to procure so much trade stuff for the House, and 
anything they may acquire that is over and above this 
requisition is their private property, and any one con- 
versant with the Oil Rivers will tell you that it is no 
uncommon thing for a trade boy to be richer than his 
owner, and that these men will not employ their riches 
in buying themselves free, but in buying slaves for them- 
selves, who work under them and for whom they are 
responsible ; and that their great desire is to found 
a House for themselves sufficiently powerful to attach 
to it poor free men. You will frequently meet with 
these slave Houses made up and governed by a man 
still himself a slave, and sometimes you will find them 
the richest and most flourishing in the district. Of the 
three chief kings in the Oil Rivers in our times two 
have been slaves, namely, Oke Jumbo and Ja Ja. Nana 
is a free-born man and the son of the great chief Alumbo, 
to whose House and power he succeeded. 

Next in grade in the Great House to the trade boys 
come two sub-sections, both slave, but held in different 
esteem. The first sub-section is composed of the people 
born to the House of slave mothers and fathers, or slave 
mothers and free fathers. The second sub-section is 
composed of the equivalent to our criminal population — 
people who have, by committing crime, forfeited their 
liberty, or people who have been bought from neigh- 
bouring tribes. These are also in the Calabar district 
outcasts, chiefly from other tribes, people the neigh- 
bouring tribe would rather be without, particularly if 
by selling them about £\2 to £18 a head on them 
could be made. Individuals of these two sub-sections 
may, according to their ability, become trade boys or 
remain tillers of the soil or paddlers of canoes. 

The law of the districts where you find this system of 
" Houses " is mainly engaged with matters pertaining to 


slaves, and the points of it that afford matter for an 
immense percentage of the palavers are, firstly, that law 
which is held by all slave-holding tribes I know, Negro 
and Bantu, namely, that the owner is responsible for the 
actions of his slave, so that when the slave does any 
damage the owner has to pay up. A careless or criminal 
slave being therefore a most expensive affliction, it 
follows that slaves who are habitual thieves are com- 
monly killed or sold, while slaves who are always get- 
ting into palavers, getting themselves heavily fined, and 
so well-known in the district that no one would have 
them as a gift, unless they wanted slaves to kill at a 
funeral, are held to be only fit for another world, and so 
are utilized as a sacrifice to a god. And just so far as 
every slave owner is responsible for his slave, so is the 
head of a House responsible for the damage done by 
members of the House, both against each other and 
against outside society. Needless to say, if one member 
of a house steals anything from another member, or 
damages it, the House-father makes him return it or 
pay, and brings his influence to bear on the plaintiff 
in the action not to be extortionate as to damages, 
namely, not to claim damages in excess of the 
defendant's personal means, even if he has to bring 
that influence to bear with a bamboo ; but when the 
plaintiff belongs to another House — possibly a powerful 
one — and he demands extortionate damages, it is hard 
on the House-father, for pay he must, and he can only 
have the satisfaction of bambooing one party in the 
action. Worse still is his position regarding those other 
belongings of the House, like the dogs, fowls, and 
canoes ; if they get into mischief there is nothing for 
it but to pay up, as they have no property with which 
he can repay himself even partially. I well remember 
seeing a very nice canoe being chopped up in the 
Cameroon region, and, on asking why, being informed 
that it was the habit of that canoe to get adrift after dark 
and go down river, and get itself picked up by some one, 
who brought it home and had to be paid a goat and 
three yams — or to go and drift away and smash up 


some lady or gentleman's fish trap, just when they 
had every expectation of making the finest haul of the 
season, and then, of course, the value of the presumed 
lost fish had to be paid " on top " of the canoe-finder's 
regular fee ; so the owner, feeling he was being dragged 
into bankruptcy by the thing, was settling its palaver 
" one time." A similar instance of the right of a com- 
munity to cast out or kill an individual member of 
it that is a chronic nuisance I saw when among an 
Ouroungou tribe. In the village there was a head 
of a woman on a stick. Human sacrifice being ex- 
tremely rare — as far as my experience goes, non- 
existent among them, although the tribe is a notoriously 
savage one — I was astonished at this head, and was told 
that " she make palaver too much," — namely, that she 
was always embroiling the village in quarrels, so the 
Elders killed her, having no taste for Helen of Troy 
affairs, I presume. 

The other point most prolific of palaver is the owner- 
ship of children in this society that contains both 
mutterrecht and slavery. The children of slave-wives 
are the only kind of his own children that a free father 
has any ownership in ; the children of a slave-father are 
the property of his owner unless their mother be a free 
woman, when they are hers. This is a clear enough 
law, but the complications come in from its being a 
common thing for a free man to marry a woman who is 
the property of some other man or woman. All her chil- 
dren are the property of her owner, not of her husband, 
and the owner can at any time take those children and 
sell them, or deal with them as he or she may think fit, 
unless the father-free-man redeems them — that is to 
say, pays a certain customary price to the mother's 
owner on the birth of each child, the mother still remain- 
ing in her slave condition. Palavers based on this law 
are distraction itself to white magistrates, and pretty 
hard work for the black chiefs, for with them there is 
no statute of limitations. Until the palaver has been 
tried, it is open ; when it is set, it is set. You cannot 
reopen a palaver or make an appeal from the decision 

D D 


of the chiefs to the higher power contained in Long 
Ju Ju, unless you make it at the time. Therefore the 
wily A will let his slave-woman live on with B without 
claiming the redemption fees as they become due, 
allowing them to stand, as it were, at compound inter- 
est. All the male as well as the female children of 
these children are, even unto the second and third 
generation and away into Eternity, his property with 
all the rights and obligations appertaining thereto. A 
man may die before he puts in his claim, in which case 
his property passes into the hands of his heir, who may 
foreclose at once on entering into his heritage, or may 
again let things accumulate for his heir. However, 
sooner or later, the foreclosure comes, and there is 
trouble. X, Y, Z, who are free men, have married some 
of the original A's slave-woman's descendants. They 
have either bought their wives right out, or kept on 
conscientiously redeeming their children as they arrived. 
Of course A or his heirs contend that X, Y, Z have only 
been wasting time and money by so doing, because the 
people X, Y, Z paid the money to had no legal right to 
the ladies. Equally, of course, X, Y, Z contend that their 
purchased lady, or her ancestress, was duly redeemed 
from the legal owners. Remember there is no document- 
ary evidence available, and squads of equally unreliable 
oldest inhabitants are swearing hard on both sides. 

We will now turn to a pure Bantu state of society, 
that of the Fjort people who live in the kingdom of the 
great unburied king. It is called Kacongo as a whole, 
after its first ruler. Fuma Congo, called by the Portu- 
guese writers the King of Kongo, lived at San Salvador, 
and he had two sons, Kacongo and Loango. Their 
father gave them the two great regions now bearing 
their names, and the routes they took when travelling 
to take possession of their respective territories can still 
be traced by their having left fetishes at each place they 
spent a night at when on their journeys. These fetishes 
are called Nkissi-nsi, which means the mystery of the 
earth. The King of Congo's own native name was 
Fuma-nsi — the prince of the earth. He was a son of 


Nzambi, the earth itself, and his son's due titles are 
Mueneu n' Fuma-nsi. With each son the King sent an 
Ngoyo or Rain Doctor, who is also spoken of n' Fuma-nsi. 

The kingdom of Kacongo is divided into seven 
provinces : Kacongo, Ncotchi, Ngoio, Kansa, Backa, 
Chindendi, and Bondi. Each of these provinces is 
governed by its own set of princes, each set having 
six grades of rank. The province of Kacongo takes 
precedence over all other provinces, and its princes 
precedence over all other princes, because it was the 
residence of Kacongo himself. The throne is at present 
unoccupied, because, for reasons too many to go into 
here, Kacongo himself has never been properly buried ; 
but the pre-eminence of the province over the others 
remains, and other provinces will send difficult cases — 
mainly those relating to the ownership of land — to be 
tried by the head princes of Kacongo. 

Each family among these Fjort has its own town ; 
the relationship is through the mother, but the wives 
have to live in their husband's town ; they can claim 
protection and find asylum in their mother's town, and 
if any person gets ill they usually go to their own 
town to be cured. Each of these towns has in it a 
little patch of ground kept sacred. It is sacred to 
Nkissi's use, and its custodian is the Nyanga Nsi, 
the head man of the town. There are two other 
Nyangas — the Nyanga Nkissi is the witch-doctor, and 
the Nyanga lu Congo is the apothecary — the doctor 
who deals with ordinary diseases, and not those arising 
from witchcraft. 

Upon the sacred patch of earth a hut is built, wherein 
the family fetish is usually kept, and you will notice 
that this patch of earth is always shaded by a tree. 
You may roughly be able to tell the age of a village by 
observing the age of its tree, for I am told the tree is 
always planted, and certainly I have seen the tree being 
planted, for a new town. To this sacred place of his 
own village the prince of a district summons his family 
and lieutenants when he is what he calls " Washing up " 
— namely, after sacrificing white fowls, the grass on the 

D D 2 


sacred patch is cut down, and it is thoroughly tidied up, 
the day ending with a dance. 

The Nyanga Nkissi has his hut away from the sacred 
patch, and in the hut he keeps his Nkiss image, a wooden 
figure into which nails are driven when it is to be com- 
municated with, and he also sells charms, and is called 
in to find the cause of death of human beings. 

These Nyanga Nkissi play so important a part in the 
administration of law that I fear I must detain you a 
little longer to explain them. They are a class apart 
from the head man of the family, and native tradition 
says they were wise men sent by Fuma Congo and his 
sons to their lieutenants in order to aid them in govern- 
ing their territories. They are men acquainted with the 
mystery of the Earth, Nzambi ; and I must here detain 
you to explain who Nzambi is, because there are only 
two people, as far as I can find out, who take any 
interest in Nzambi, Mr. R. E. Dennett, who lives among 
the Fjort, and has done so for seventeen years, well 
acquainted and keenly sympathetic with them, and 
knowing their language as well as they do themselves, 
and I myself. I do not pretend to anything like so 
intimate acquaintance with Nzambi as Mr. Dennett 
possesses, but I know other spirits just like her among 
other tribes, and I know her fairly well, so I venture 
to lay before you our joint opinion regarding this 
great spirit, whom you hear invoked by every man 
or woman before making a statement in a native 
palaver : " Ngong, Gong, Ngetan, Zambi," meaning, 
"Listen, listen, in the name of God." Her name is 
also used as an ejaculation by a person suddenly 
alarmed. In Fjort legends she is spoken of as the 
mother of a beautiful daughter, and you get accounts 
of her calling all the animals to great meetings or 
great palavers ; as giving mankind all laws, ordinances, 
arts, games, and musical instruments, except the drum 
— the woodpecker invented that — and she stole it from 
him in a very mean way. It is a sad story, so I will 
not detain you with it now, as I hope through the 
munificence of the Folk-Lore Society that it and several 


other important folk-lore stones of the Fjorts collected 
by Mr. Dennett will soon be published. You will also 
find quantities of stories, in which Nzambi appears as a 
poor woman with a hungry or thirsty infant on her 
back, who rewards those who help her — in almost all 
cases it is a man — and punishes those who refuse her 
help by turning their village into a lake or themselves 
into earth pillars. She holds palaver to settle quarrels 
between animals, and in the stories giving her decision 
is embedded an immense amount of Fjort law. But 
great as Nzambi is, still living and acting as she is to- 
day, away in the country of the Fjort, she is but the 
giver, the teacher, the taker away of things ; she is not 
the Creator. The Creator is the great male god, Nzambi 
Mpungu, who is also the god who had fire and from 
whom Nzambi partially stole it ; anyhow, he did not 
give free his boxes of lightning. I have no hesitation in 
saying I fully believe Nzambi Mpungu to be a purely 
native god, and that he is a great god over all things, 
but the study of him is even more difficult than the 
study of Nzambi, because the Jesuit missionaries who 
gained so great an influence over the Fjorts in the 
sixteenth century identified him with Jehovah and 
worked on the native mind from that standpoint. Then 
the Jesuits were turned out of Kacongo, for purely 
political reasons, by the Portuguese, and the Fjort were 
left without missionaries for more than one hundred 
years, and the consequence was, most of the Jesuit 
teachings underwent a sort of absorption into the native 
form of thought, and took on to themselves the Fetish 
form. Just as an example I will cite that you will find 
Nzambi Mpungu described by them, even where they 
have had no missionary since the Jesuits, as "the 
badly dressed one," and a close study of this will show 
you that he is called " the badly dressed one " from his 
having been identified by the Jesuits with the Figure on 
the Crucifix. 

Nzambi herself the Jesuits identified with the Virgin 
Mary, which also gives now much difficulty in sorting 
facts when collecting Fjort Fetish, and having spoken 


of the errors of others, I must speak of my own. I 
found that Mpungu meant a gorilla in that district. 
Now it was a little interesting to find the Fjorts 
imagining they had sprung from a gorilla, so I thought 
it ought to be investigated. I found Mr. Dennett 
feelings were hurt in that after all the information I ha< 
from him, I was still capable of this error ; he said that 
in the dialects of the south bank of the Lower Congo, 
Mpungu means a Creator or Father — in the Nlandi 
dialect it means " something that covers " — and that, as 
Nkissism was a religion introduced into Kacongo by 
the Nyangas sent from Fuma Congo, therefore the 
word, in its religious signification, had no connection 
with gorillas, but bore the south bank's signification, so 
I hope you will remember my error when any one comes 
and runs up a plausible tale about Fjorts regarding them- 
selves as coming from gorillas, and I think if you will 
study Nzambi Mpungu, which we have no time to do 
now, you will agree with me that he is, like all the other 
great over-gods whom you will meet with on the West 
Coast — Nyan Kumpong Abasi Bum, &c, — very inti- 
mately associated with the firmament. I do not say he 
is the personification of the firmament, because this god 
always lives above it, and you have to bore through the 
firmament before you can get at him — the boring is 
usually done by the woodpecker — and I think you 
know he lives there, because of the noise you hear him 
making — the thunder. But I must apologise for detain- 
ing you so long with Nzambi Mpungu, for he takes, as 
is usual with his class, next to no interest in human 
affairs — legal or individual. Occasionally you come 
across long conversations between him and his consort 
Nzambi, who is always on the worry about earthly affairs. 
His share in them is coldly cynical, often marked by 
sound sense, a sort of " If they will do it, whatever does 
it matter to me ? " Now and again he will grant grand 
things as a gift to her, but by no means always. On 
one occasion, for example, there was a time of pestilence 
on earth, and Nzambi sent up to him to ask him to 
remove it. First she sent the Ngongongo, a wonderful 


bird that can fly a wonderful distance, and when he 
reached Nzambi Mpungu he said, very carefully, 
" Guarry, guarry, guarry," and Nzambi Mpungu did not 
understand the language. Then she sent the rock- 
pigeon, who said a good deal but was not understood, 
and then she sent the ground dove, whom all men 
understood, and she said : 

" Fusa malenda mafsi. 
Vangi Maloango ma foy. 
Vangi Makongo ma foy. 
Sukela Sanga viscia." 

And Nzambi Mpungu understood her perfectly, but he 
made no answer. 

I fear you may think that by describing to you these 
two states of society I have far from demonstrated the 
intimate connection of the African's religion with the 
African's law — that I have described to you states of 
society reliant on human agency only — and this is what 
those societies look like when you first meet with them, 
and before you become conversant with them in detail 
and personally ; but a very short residence amongst 
either Negro or Bantu tribes will make you ask yourself, 
" How is this society maintained ? " You can see it is 
closely knit together, you can see that every member of 
it is responsible to or for some other member, you see 
there is no mass of unemployed, starving poor in it ; no 
police ; no workhouses ; no prisons; yet that the property 
of each individual member, male or female, free or slave, 
is regarded as their possession, and that it is a thing that 
cannot be damaged or taken from them without reason. 

When you investigate more closely you soon find the 
thing that holds the society together and acts as the 
great deterrent to crime against the society — and this 
thing is Fetish religion. I think that you will see that 
the whole system may be diagrammatically arranged 
thus : There are the great creating spirits like Nzambi 
Mpungu : beneath him are a class of great nature 
spirits : beneath them another class of nature spirits, 
which may be influenced by the class of spirits that live 
in human beings ; equal to these human spirits are a 


great class of spirits, the Mionde ; beneath these there 
are an immense number of different sorts of spirits, 
who may be influenced by all the grades of spirits above 
them ; men may use them, or the spirits which are 
above men may use them, either to guard against, or 
injure, others of their own class, or those below them. 
When a man wishes to use one of these Mionde he has 
to get it to come and reside in something that belongs 
to him — he makes it into a charm ; I have elsewhere 
published all I think that I know of any importance 
regarding charms, I will therefore not detain you with 
them here, and merely remark that it is by using these, 
what one might call domesticated spirits, that the native 
secures to himself his property, both from human and 
non-human aggressors. 

You will see this strikingly illustrated when as you 
walk along a bush path far from human habitation, you 
notice a little cleared space by the side of the path ; it 
is neatly laid with plantain leaves, and on it are various 
little articles for sale — leaf tobacco, a few yams, and so 
on, and beside each article are so many stones, beans or 
cowries, which indicate the price of each article, and 
you will see, either sitting in the middle of the things, 
or swinging by a bit of Tie Tie from a branch above, 
Egba, or a relation of his — the market god — who will 
visit with death any theft from that shop, or any cheating 
in price given, or any taking away of sums left by 
previous customers. You can always tell which are the 
articles already paid for things taken, and which are 
those you can take and welcome if you pay cash down, 
because those for sale have the prices marked up. Again, 
the plantations of a Ba' Akele, or Fan town, are not in 
the manner of fenced-in back gardens, they are open 
clearings, sometimes a mile from the town they belong 
to. Sometimes for weeks at a time no one of their 
owners is near them by day ; at night the slaves, or the 
lower members of the family, go up to the little huts in 
them and scare off the gorillas, elephants, bush cow and 
bush pig, but during the day there is nothing to guard 
them from human robbers but the bian. Also there are 


the spirits who are kept and fed in little miniature huts 
on the verges of the plantation towards the forests, and 
whose work it is to help the human owner to keep 
down the evil weed spirits that invade it from the forest. 
Or you can take a canoe and drop down beside the 
slimy banks of any Oil river you choose and you will 
see quantities of fish traps, every one of them guarded, 
and practically efficiently guarded, against human 
depredations by charms ; or, away in the Gorilla-land 
Forest, you will see, miles from any sign of human life, 
piles of cut billets of ebony, or rubber vine, each with 
its bian on, and if you were a Fan desirous, as is 
common with Fans, of taking those things you would 
hold it policy first to kill the human owner of them 
wherever he might be. 

As guardians of property, then, you will see the 
Fetish spirits act well. I have never seen or been told 
of a case wherein a man's or woman's property had been 
seized and taken by another person, until its owner had 
been accused of witchcraft and killed. When a person 
has been convicted of witchcraft by means of the result 
of the ordeal or their own confession — it is not law for 
any human tribunal to convict on this charge — the 
property of the Ndochti,or Witch, passes as compensation 
to the injured family. 

There is, no doubt, room for the bringing of false 
accusations, yet against it is this deterrent : A accuses B, 
for example, of having bewitched one of his wives, so 
that she died. B can say, " I did not do it. You did it. 
You are a witch yourself, I'll drink odum, or take the 
bean " — as the ordeal in the district may demand — " and 
you must take it too." And the law is that A must. 
Of course B would not dare to answer back like that if 
he were not innocent ; for he would, if guilty, know he 
was committing suicide by taking ordeal ; and if A 
knows his accusation is false he also knows the ordeal 
will kill him. The only way, therefore, when a false 
accusation is to be made is to take the Witch Doctor 
into confidence on the death of a member of the house. 
He is called in, in his capacity of finder-out of the person 


who has caused the death, and by bribe he is persuaded 
to accuse the hated person. If, however, a man who 
knows a certain man hates him hears of a death in that 
man's family, he makes it his business to bribe the Witch 
Doctor not to mix him up in the affair, and often the 
Witch Doctor will take both fees, and then, to show his 
independence and superior knowledge of the whole 
affair, will accuse some third person, whose name has 
not been even mentioned to him. Neither of the original 
parties in the affair can do anything beyond come to 
the conclusion that it would be for the best if that Witch 
Doctor died of a disease. They dare not publish 
abroad that they had bribed him, because they would 
thereby confess to having witch intentions themselves, 
and would be promptly killed. 

Among the Fjort there is another safeguard against 
false accusation. When a person dies messengers are 
sent to a Nyanga who lives far away in another village, 
taking with them a present of cloth. The Nyanga, on 
meeting them, describes to them all the circumstances 
connected with the life, last illness, and death of the 
man, and if this agrees with what they themselves know 
of it they place the cloth before him and request him to 
tell them what he knows of the cause of their relation's 
death. He goes into the consideration of the subject 
with his Nkiss, and after sometimes a very considerable 
delay he informs them that the man has died because 
some one has knocked a nail for his death into a 
certain Nkiss, or because a certain person has bewitched 
him, or because he had lived his life through. 

If the death is held to have been occasioned by the 
driving of a nail, the relations go to the Nyanga of that 
Nkiss — it may be in a distant village — and they very 
respectfully, and with presents, ask its Nyanga if he 
remembers So-and-So having a nail knocked into this 
Nkiss, and if the Nyanga sees fit to remember, they ask 
him to point out the nail to them and they pay him to 
draw it out, so that the relations of the dead man may 
not also suffer and die through its action. 

If a person has been accused, the relations accuse him 


or her of it, and he or she has to take an ordeal drink 
made of powdered bark. Among the Fjort there are 
two kinds of this drink used for ordeal — M'Bunda and 
N'Kassa. The first is given to persons who cannot deny 
being witches, but who deny having injured the man in 
question ; the second to those who plead entire innocence 
of witchcraft. 1 

I have detained you over the method of enforcing law 
as it exists among the Fjort and Loangos, and so have 
no time to enter into the way in which law is enforced 
among the true Negroes ; but it is not necessary for me 
to do so, because you already have much information on 
the nature and action of the great secret societies who 
enforce the law from Cape Blanco to Cameroon. Similar 
secret societies exist south of Cameroon. A few of 
these are used in the enforcement of law, but in power 
and organization I have seen nothing south of Calabar 
to equal the Egbo of that region, nor the Oru you will 
find Ellis describing, nor the Porah I have learnt of 
from the Timenhas and Susus from the hinterland of 
Sierra Leone. From Cameroon until you reach the 
people who were once subjects of Fuma Congo, you will 
not find a dominant authority of any kind equal to 
Egbo. When, however, you do reach these subjects of 
the great unburied king, you again find a set of authori- 
ties or powers equal to the secret societies. These are 
the Nyanga Nkissi. They differ in being not groups of 
individuals whose knowledge and power is in various 
grades, but in being individual men attached as priests 
to individual Nkiss. You will find several great Nkiss 
in Kacongo. Their names are various ; there is Bmzi, 
the most important in Kacongo, residing in the district 
of Ngoio. It is the great Nkiss for getting rain from. 

Then there is Nzemba, the Nkiss at Landana, in the 
province of Ncotchi. Its Nyanga has three pools of 
water, one of which he uses when divining when there 
shall be abundance of fish, another for rain, another for 
sickness ; and here, also at Landana, Mr. Dennett, who 
knows the district well, informs me that the caves there, 
1 See The Burial of Fjort "Folk Lore," June, 1897. 


which the sea rushes into with great fury, are used in 
the election of a prince of the district. Into one of 
them the prince elect has to go. If the sea accepts him 
as prince it withdraws and allows him to enter ; then it 
swallows him up, but only to convey him to his own 
town, where, duly shaved and painted, he is found by 
his people on their return from the sea-shore. If the sea 
does not retire and allow the prince to enter, the election 
is void, and another selection has to be made. 

Then there is Chiguakka, the Nkiss of the Upper 
Loango, who forbids people who bathe in the river to 
put their heads under water ; and beside these chief 
ones there are many others. 

The study of the secret society among the Africans is, 
I think, a fascinating one, with all its elaborate formulae 
of initiation ; the way in which all free boys and girls 
are compelled by it to enter into what we may call the 
school, for if their parents do not place them under its 
charge at a proper age the spirit of the Secret Society 
will seize on them and swallow them, and only return 
them from its maw on payment of more than the school 
fees would have been. " Horee will have you " is a 
genuine fright to a Gambia native child, just as 
" Okukwe will have you " is to a Bapuk ; and these 
societies' secret languages, and grades of power are all 
full of interest, as also is the study of the limitation of 
the power of the secret societies you see in the sanctu- 
aries scattered all over the districts in which they 
exercise power. These sanctuaries also require an 
immense amount of study by the ethnologist, and I 
intend, when next out, to attempt carrying on the 
collection of information regarding them, which I have 
already commenced in the districts of Omon, Abasi, 
Inokun and Eliva-z-Onlange, &c. I openly own to 
preferring the true Negro to the Bantu, and yet I can- 
not but think that this religion of Nkissism has been 
much neglected by our ethnologists, and that it is full of 
interest both in itself and also from its having been im- 
ported from a region south of the Congo to one north. 

The kind of religion that Nkissism has overgrown and 


altered, one cannot say supplanted, is the kind evidently 
that you will find at present existing among the Igalwa 
and Ajumba, for you find beside the Nkissi left by the 
Sons of Fuma Congo in places where they personally 
stayed, other Nkiss, and there is no mistaking these 
other Nkiss, although they now have the pomp and 
ceremony of Nyanga attached to them, for anything else 
but Imbuwiri such as you meet away in districts to the 
north of where Nkissism has penetrated ; they are, in 
fact, the old gods of the country which the new religion 
has adopted. 

I beg now only to say that it is my belief that the 
connection between West African religion and law is 
far greater than you will see demonstrated by Ellis, 
Kohler, or Sarbar, and that this intimate connection is 
the reason of the great difficulty of destroying African 
native customs as they are called. It is true the laws 
of the Africans seem naturally to fall under two separate 
heads, which one might call civil and ecclesiastical. If, 
however, you attempted to study these laws under these 
two headings as separate things, you would soon find 
yourself enmeshed in difficulties, and I think the more 
repaying method is that which at first seems most diffi- 
cult, namely, to commence with the study of the African 
conception of the status of man in nature. As far as I 
have gone it seems to make one think that there are 
certain affairs which we may call purely human affairs, 
such as inheritance of property, which the human class 
of spirits can deal with without calling in the aid of 
other classes of spirits to the affair. Then there are 
other affairs that it is wiser to call in other spirits to 
help the human spirit in. One charm does the work of 
twenty slaves, is a common saying among them ; and 
then there is a third class of affairs to which you must 
call in extra-human spirits to help to decide, such as 
witchcraft, cases in which extra-human spirits are 
already involved. 

You will also find the African making a clear dis- 
tinction between sin and crime, " god palaver and man 
palaver " as he calls these respectively. The first is an 


offence against a spirit ; if it is an outrage on an im- 
portant great nature spirit, who will rise up in its wrath 
and retaliate on the entire tribe, the man is killed by 
the tribe or family on whom vengeance would fall so as 
to appease the Ombuwiri or Sasabonsum ; other sacri- 
fices are made to the same end ; if however, it is only a 
minor spirit, the man's own guardian spirit for example, 
that he has angered — he has broken his Ibet, Orunda, 
or Keechela — he is left to settle affairs with his spirit on 
his own account. Crime is an offence against human 
society which human society feels quite equal to cope 
with, though the assistance of a spirit may be called on 
to aid in its detection or prevention. You will find a 
rich field for studying this distinction between sin and 
crime in the matter of the African's views on lying — there 
is no intrinsic harm in lying, to his mind, because a man 
is a fool who believes another man on an important matter 
unless he puts on the oath ; when he puts on the oath he 
calls in a great spirit who will make the man who tells a 
lie in its presence swell up and burst. I can honestly say 
I would not take an African's word on any important 
subject, if that word were spoken out of oath, but I 
would stake my life, as I have many times already done, 
on the word of the wildest bush cannibal in all West 
Africa if that word were spoken under oath. 

Of the great human importance of the study of the 
religion, laws, and social status of the African native 
it is not necessary for me to speak ; it is too self- 
evident that it is our duty to know the true nature 
of those people with whom we are now dealing in 
tens of thousands, so that by this knowledge we may 
be enabled to rule them wisely, to give them chances 
of advancing that they can really avail themselves of, 
and thereby save thousands of human lives, both black 
and white, by means of that true knowledge which I 
regard as the inward aid of God. 



I VENTURE respectfully to think that to any one who 
is English, and who has been overseas anywhere, it has 
been a strange thing to see of late professional 
politicians wrestling, as with a difficulty, over the 
definition of the word Imperialism ; as strange as though 
they wrestled, as with a difficulty, to define the word 
home, or honour, or mother. Similarly strange and 
more unpleasant has been the spectacle of a distinct 
outbreak of anti-Imperialism up here in England. It 
has been, so far, only a series of local outbreaks, and 
scattered sporadic cases, but so dangerous a disease in 
the heart of the Empire is no more to be neglected than 
similar appearances of the bubonic plague or the cholera 
morbus. Outbreak of anti- Imperialism ! you ejaculate. 
The thing's impossible ! where is it ? Well, I dare say I 
am nervous, because I remember the time, and it's not so 
long ago, when England had a devastating epidemic of 
the disease — when she sent Gordon on a mean mission 
and then abandoned him — when she slept in China, and 
down round Majuba Hill sowed that crop of dragon's 
teeth the harvest whereof she is reaping to-day. As for 
where are the symptoms of another outbreak — well, they 
are showing in a worse place than usual : in the minds of 
thinking Englishmen, a thing which clearly demonstrates 
that at any rate what one might call the sanitation of 
1 A Lecture delivered in Liverpool. 

416 IMPERIALISM chap. 

Imperialism is imperfect. For example, you will find a 
distinct statement of anti-Imperialism in the June 
number of the Contemporary Review} a statement I will 
attempt to deal with later ; but far more serious than it 
are such things as the recent utterances of several expert 
statisticians and Mr. Kipling's poem " The White Man's 
Burden." Honestly, I do not think that the time has yet 
arrived when even the most insignificant Imperialist like 
myself can knock off work and say, " Oh, it's all right now, 
for England in England understands ; she will never have 
anti -Imperialism again." Honestly, I do not see why she 
should not have it again as bad as ever, for no true safe- 
guard has been built up against it. 

And it must be clear to the meanest understanding that 
a return of it in the future will be attended by worse 
consequences, now there are more things to suffer from it 
when it comes, a larger Empire for it to blight. Believe 
me, there is danger, a danger no amount of sentiment, 
however glorious in colour, however wildly cheered to- 
day, will guard us from ; and I respectfully beg to attempt 
to explain wherein I think that danger lies, which I 
can only do by first attempting to explain where it does 
not. Certainly it does not lie in any chance of any 
running short of England's power or England's money, 
but it lies in the chance that the time may come when 
she will run short of spirit to use these things in support 
of her Empire overseas. Nothing can make her spirit to 
support Imperialism a fixed and permanent thing save 
the knowledge — not the emotion or the sentiment, mind 
you, but the knowledge — that Imperialism is a good and 
honest thing. Once get her to recognise this, she will 
stick to it as to trial by jury and habeas corpus, but not 
till then. It is no use telling her it pays : she has seen 
Venice rolling in riches. It is no use telling her it is 
magnificent : she has seen Spain magnificent, and she 
sees them both to-day. It is not good enough. The 
only thing she in her heart of hearts knows is good 
enough is the thing she has all her youth fought for — 
justice. Any institution that has that for fundamental 
1 " The Seamy Side of Imperialism," by Robert Wallace, M.P. 


principle, England will throughout the ages stand by, 
fight for, and conquer for, to the best of her ability. It 
is her one permanent desire, the one thing which in 
dealing with England either internally or externally, 
you, whoever you be, wherever you may be upon the 
scene, can depend on her for in the end. 

Such being the case, let us now consider our Impe- 
rialism in this relationship, for by it it must stand or 
fall. Without considering it we can easily imagine Impe- 
rialism to have a career — a bright, prosperous little 
career, but nothing more ; but that is not what we old- 
fashioned Imperialists desire for it or England. First, we 
will take that modern development of it, often called 
Jubilee Imperialism or jingoism ; the democratic side 
of it, I believe the true side of it, a side I know it is 
fashionable to laugh at, or decry. I openly say I love 
it. It gives me the greatest pleasure to " sit in my room 
at night reading a good book," as worthy men enjoin, 
and to hear the beanfeasters go by singing " Let 'em 
all Come," or " Hands across the Sea ; " and the other 
night I was indeed much moved by another manifesta- 
tion of this thing. It was a wet night, and I, returning 
home from the meeting of a learned society, hailed a 
slowly crawling cab. " Sorry I can't take you, mum," 
said the driver, " I've a gent unconscious inside." "Dear 
me," said I, " why don't you take him to St. George's 
at once ? " " He ain't a hospital case," said he, looking 
down on " the gent unconscious " through the trap door. 
" He'll be better, by and by. He's one of them colonials 
of ours just home to his native land for the first time, 
and he's gone and excited himself, that's all." I retired, 
and the cab and the colonist drifted away into rain ; but 
still it was nice to think, in spite of the colonist's con- 
duct and the inconvenience it gave me, of the old 
country, represented by the cabman, taking care of him 
like that. It was another of many previous manifesta- 
tions of democratic Imperialism that has endeared it to 
me, and made me feel an esteem for it, in spite of the 
equally frequent manifestations of a profound lack of 
knowledge of the use of the globe, and such like things ; 

E E 

418 IMPERIALISM chap. 

and this often abused "Jubilee Imperialism " seems to 
me to be the recognition by the democracy of England, 
as a whole, of that fact, with which up to our own time 
only great individuals, or scattered groups of Englishmen, 
have been aquainted with : namely, that we the English 
are English everywhere, and we must have the world a 
free and open world. A world wherein just, honourable, 
respectable men of all races, all colours, all religions, 
can live, worship, trade, labour, or live quietly, unham- 
pered by a lot of pettifogging arbitrary rules and regula- 
tions and persecutions. Live as free men, whether rich 
or poor, white or black, cultured or uncultured, 
ambitious or unambitious. We know from centuries of 
experience that this ideal of making freedom for the 
world is not to be expected from any race save the 
Teuton. Other races who excel us in many excellent 
things have this ideal of freedom, but it is restricted for 
their own men, and in the case of France for the races 
under their sway, but for them alone. They do not 
give to the stranger within their gates, to the foreigner, 
an equal law and justice with their own men. It has 
been one of England's truest honours that ever since she 
developed her Imperial policy, since she first went out 
overseas to fight for religious and commercial freedom 
against the over greatness of Spain, she has steadily 
striven towards the ideal that any man could come 
anywhere under her flag, and, let him be Celt, Slav, or 
Asiatic, or African, he would be protected by her law 
and participate in her hard-won freedom. This Impe- 
rialism, our Imperialism, is the thing that is not ashamed 
of wanting all the world to rule over. It is the faith we 
have fought for in the face of enormous difficulties and 
dangers and discouragements, both internal and external, 
and we old-fashioned Imperialists to-day believe it is the 
real spirit of England, believe John Milton is our singer, 
and intend to defend our policy against whoever may 
come against it ; and internally or externally we mean to 
keep our powder dry, and carefully attend to the destruc- 
tion of those moths that would, while pretending to be 
Imperialists, eat our ermine, namely, those men who 


make it to-day possible for honourable humane English- 
men like Mr. John Morley, Mr. Courtney, and Mr. 
Wallace, to rise up and question the righteousness of 
the spirit of Imperialism in England. 

Yet, you say, you said the utterances of men like Mr. 
Morley were a symptom of anti- Imperialism. So I did 
and so I do, but I did not say they were anti-Imperialists, 
but that those utterances would tend to spread a spirit 
of anti-Imperialism. Such men as they are truly not 
destroyers, but in a way preservers of our Empire, and 
the nation owes them a debt of gratitude for their 
honest endeavours to keep England's honour clean and 
to preserve her Imperialism from sinking into being in 
our times a stockbroker's nigger business, or drifting 
into a swamp of false finance. In fact, they are truly 
but pointing out where the moths are getting into our 
ermine, where the rust is eating in on our sword-blade — 
not foes but friends. 

I am perfectly well aware this is not a fashionable 
view. I know many excellent Imperialists say "that 
certain things are unavoidable when one is dealing with 
diplomacy," or, " certain things are unavoidable when 
one is dealing with civilised races, acting on uncivilised 
excess," and so on ; but that is rubbish — and dangerous 
rubbish at that — for once let the moth get a hold, once let 
the rust eat in, the thing is done for. You can get a 
new suit of ermine, but you cannot get it for the same 
thing — freedom. You can get a new sword-blade, but it 
will not have the old magic on it — fearlessness. Well, you 
now say, why have you not included Mr. Kipling among 
these aforesaid moth and rust destroyers ? I can only 
answer — he does not belong to this group, though I have 
cited his " White Man's Burden " as a factor in encourag- 
ing anti-Imperialism to spread in the heart of the Empire. 
We all know that England owes to him probably more 
than to any other living man — unbounded gratitude for 
all that he has done to make her " find herself," not only 
in her might and power in this world to-day, but in her 
duty to God ; he, like that greatest English singer, John 
Milton, calls on us all to be " God's Englishmen " ; never 

K E 2 

420 IMPERIALISM chap. 

has the true Imperial policy for us been better put than 
by Mr. Kipling when he sang: — 

Hold ye the Faith — the Faith our Fathers sealed us, 
Whoreing not with visions — over-wise and over-stale. 

Except ye pay the Lord, 

Single heart and single sword, 
Of your children in their bondage He shall ask them treble tale. 

Keep ye the Law, be swift in all obedience : 

Clear the land of evil — drive the road and bridge the ford. 

Make ye sure for each his own 

That he reap what he hath sown ; 
By the Peace among our people let men know we serve the Lord. 

Had he seen the modern Imperialists listening, little 
need would there have been for him to write " The 
Recessional " — also is he, in a way, the greatest practical 
empire-maker we have with us. Men away, far from 
home and England, feel thanks to him, that England cares 
for them, that they matter to her, and that their work 
seems a work worth doing. For has he not sung our song, 
the song of the likes of me and many better men and 
women, that of " The Lost Legion " ? But when Mr. 
Kipling the other day sang " The White Man's Burden," 
he struck a string alien to us, and we liked it as much as 
a wet slate pencil rubbed against a slate ; it was the first 
line we had ever met of his that we did not understand 
— it found in our hearts no echo. We old-fashioned 
Teutons have never felt any amounf""of Empire any 
burden, and we do not intend to rule "sullen, silent 
people " ; such things are not in our line, we want and 
we will have all the world we can, and we will have it 
no burden to us ; nor will we calmly allow England to be 
a burden on those we gather beneath the shadow of 
her wings. Our watchword is Egmont's " Fruchtheit 
und Freiheit ! Froheit und Ruhe ! " We know no white 
man's burden save of white man's making ; we can 
manage the rest. Supposing this is so, you remark. You 
have only said that Mr. John Morley and his group are 
really helping Imperialism, and that Mr. Kipling has 
only once failed to please your group. Where is the 


danger of these men aiding a general policy-moulding 
outburst on anti-Imperialism? That is soon demon- 
strated. Mr. John Morley's group are like unto medical 
books — bad reading for the unprofessional. You know 
how a sound healthy man, may be with just a touch of 
gout or dyspepsia on him, will, on perusing a physician's 
vade mecum, straightway fall into the belief that he 
has everything in it the matter with him, barring the 
spotted diseases, and those he fears may be coming on. 
Of course, he does not from imagination really get any 
organic disease, but nevertheless he gets ill for a day or 
so and is a pestilent nuisance to his family, for he 
thinks they do not realise the difficulty of his position. 
They think he is making a fool of himself, and that he is 
perfectly able to attend to his business — their interests 
— energetically, if he chose, and things are said during this 
crisis which are not forgotten by either party for years. 
Now take the case of the ordinary stay-at-home, 
honest Englishman, who has got a vote, and who has so 
far, in our day, acquiesced in an Imperialistic policy, 
believing it means an extension of justice and freedom 
to the world, is a sound self-supporting policy that will 
not add any extra burden to his already heavy burden 
of rates and taxes. He is getting gradually, and from so 
many quarters, told nowadays that that sort of Im- 
perialism does not exist. Imperialism is quite another 
thing. There are eminent statisticians expressing the 
fear that England is in a parlous state, living on her 
accumulated wealth — wealth which was acquired before 
Imperialism became her Government policy. They say 
she is not only living on her capital, but, by investing 
money in unrepaying regions, is piling up debt in the 
future. They say that money is urgently wanted to enable 
us, by means of technical schools, to retain our com- 
mercial supremacy, which, according to them, we are 
rapidly losing. He hears about grants in aid of colonies 
in a decayed condition, like the West Indies ; he remem- 
bers how that particularly staid statesman, Lord Salis- 
bury, has said things about "light soils" and " swamps," 
and that British taxpayer thinks about Imperialism 


and his income tax and begins to feel nervous. Then 
when he turns for consolation to the consideration of 
the great moral and spiritual benefits he has conferred 
on the world by his Imperial policy, he has some 
nice hearing in this department nowadays. He is 
butchering thousands of good men with Maxim guns, and 
he is reducing the rest of them to practical slavery by 
forced labour. If there are any left over from these two 
performances, he is degrading them. He is told, as a 
general rule, that he is doing this to make money for 
himself; he knows this is not true, for he knows his 
income tax keeps up, but he knows there is something 
true in the rest of it, and he does not like it. Im- 
perialism begins in his mind, as with Lancelot Gobbo's 
father, to " something smack, something grow to, he had a 
kind of taste." Well, feeling the wavers coming on, know- 
ing that The Spectator and even Lord Charles Beresford 
has doubts as to whether England has not now as much 
Empire as her power and intelligence can safely stand, 
he turns to his Kipling — Kipling, who sang him the " Flag 
of England," and Mr. Kipling, if you please, treats that 
poor good man to " The White Man's Burden " Oh my 
income tax ! says he, and he is down with anti- 
Imperialism in a marked, well-developed form; and 
because the British voter is ill, Imperial affairs all over 
our Empire, but particularly in the garrisoned region of 
it, the tropics, are brought up with a round turn, to their 
great detriment and suffering. It is a highly ridiculous 
thing of course, but sad for all that, and I think it is 
excusable if an old-fashioned Imperialist like myself 
feels savage at large, both with the men who mis- 
manage Imperial administration, and let it get the moth 
and rust in it, and with the voter who is governed by 
emotion, and who by demanding nothing from his re- 
presentative statesmen beyond good intentions, and no 
drain on the exchequer, allows a system of amateurism 
to represent him Imperially in all regions oversea which 
are directly under the direct control of the House of 

Now having laid down these preliminary principles, I 


nobly restrain myself from having a fight with the 
authorities on statistics, who have thrown doubts on 
Imperialism paying — nobly, because I have always found 
great authorities on obscure statistical affairs most excel- 
lent company, exceedingly congenial to me, to whom 
statistics are as music is to some people ; instead, I turn, 
in conclusion, to attempting to answer Mr. Wallace's 
article on the seamy side of Imperialism. First we will 
take the main argument of it, namely, that Imperialism 
has a bad influence on England at home. Mr. Wallace 
thinks " expansionist Imperialism means more des- 
potism abroad and more aristocratic recrudescence at 
home." Well, that is not what one might call strictly 
true. You know, for example, Clive was not an 
aristocrat, and those much vilified men, the privateers, 
buccaneers, and pirates, who simply kept England going 
on the sea, and were open-doorers of the most deter- 
mined character, were not aristocrats : the aristocrats in 
their days were mostly fi ghting European Powers on the 
Continent. But where should we be to-day had England 
not had buccaneers, privateers, pirates? Better than 
we are, you may say. Well, we should not be Imperial 
England. Holland or Belgium would be more our size, 
but a Holland without a Netherlands India, or Belgium 
without a Congo Beige. Imperialism is, thanks be, to- 
day the united spirit of all classes of Englishmen, from 
the highest to the lowest ; and if they know it is so, there 
is triumph and content in the hearts of all those old 
Imperialists, plebeian or patrician, Sir Richard Grenville, 
Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins, Captain England 
and Sir Walter Raleigh and Bartholomew Roberts, whose 
arms, ornaments and skeleton lie beneath the sea by 
Cape Lopez in West Africa. 

Then the second great accusation Mr. Wallace brings 
against Imperialism is that the money and the intellec- 
tual force that should be spent on improving education 
and local sanitation in England is thrown away on the 
overseas English Empire. As for the money, I own we 
do throw away a million where a properly expended 
£500 would do the work as well. I own we are given 

424 IMPERIALISM chap. 

to paying a pound for sixpence ; but, on the other hand, 
do we not do much the same thing pretty often up here 
in England's home affairs ? While as for the second 
count in the accusation, that we absorb a dangerous 
amount of the fund of intellect and attention of the 
home-staying English public, I utterly deny it. Pick up 
your newspaper any morning you like, and glance over 
it ; note the percentage of space given to Dreyfus, the 
last stage play and the police reports, and that given to 
information on the oversea Empire. Go round about 
intellectual, cultured society and listen to its conversation 
— you will lose all anxiety about cultured men and 
women up here overworking themselves on Imperialism. 
The affairs of Cape Colony, owing to the personality of 
Mr. Rhodes, and the large amount of Stock Exchange 
interest he involves; and the affairs of the Sudan, 
owing to the personality of Lord Kitchener, the interest 
he attracts by being a successful soldier, the avenger of 
Gordon, the breaker up of the late Mahdi, unmarried 
and said to be averse to women, I own do absorb a good 
deal of popular attention and enthusiasm ; still they do 
not do so to a really brain-spraining extent. For example, 
I am known to have been in Africa. One day I get 
myself looked down on because I say, " No, I have 
never been to Khartoum nor seen Lord Kitchener " ; the 
next because I say, " No, I never saw Mr. Rhodes, and 
have never been in South Africa." I see other wan- 
derers come and sit down at the hearth of England and 
go through the same experience. I remember, when 
things were going very badly for us in the Gold Coast 
hinterland, and on the Niger, the percentage of attention 
those things received from the general public compared 
with that given to Oxford andCambridge refusing degrees 
to women, and affairs connected with the London County 
Council. Had it not been for the spirit of general 
Imperialism we should have had no attention at all. 
Look round you to-day ; is the general public mind ex- 
hausting itself over the Venezuela boundary arbitration or 
the all-British cable, or the America and Canada palaver ? 
Not a bit of it. That mind is practically virgin soil — 


we have not planted a headache in it, and it is most 
unfair for those leaders who are interested in English 
domestic affairs to tax us with having done so. 

This spirit, however, of advocating one English in- 
terest at the expense of another, is deplorably rife 
among us all. Those Imperialists who are interested 
in China and ignorant of Central Africa " speak dis- 
respectfully of the Equator," and tell you " one province 
in China is worth all Africa." Those interested in 
Africa tell you that as England is a great manufac- 
turing country she will do herself no good by pulling 
out the plug in China and letting loose on herself 
and the world at large an enormous and superior 
mass of manufactures ; while, on the other hand, Africa 
is a great consumer of manufactured goods — a great 
producer of raw material for our manufacturers, a 
great source of raw gold supply ; and there is civil war 
among us overseas Imperialists, instead of mutual 
help. Then again, those who stay at home in England 
and attend to educational, sanitary and Church matters, 
are also in a true sense of the word Imperialists ; they 
strive to support the heart of the Empire, to make 
England's towns sweeter and purer, spiritually and 
materially; to bring up the next generation of the 
English sound in body and in mind : their work is as 
important to the whole Empire as the work of those 
who, overseas, expand the Empire territorially, because 
on the little island in the North Sea depends the defence 
and the very existence of the oversea section. Were 
England at home to get sick at heart again, as she was 
before Cromwell came ; as she was for a space after he 
went ; as she has been now and again since, where would 
the English Empire overseas be ? Well we know, for 
we remember Amboyna, the loss of that region now the 
United States, the abandonment of Gordon and the 
South African affairs of 1874. We overseas who work 
for the Empire there, look to those who work on the 
domestic affairs of England to prevent by their in- 
fluence for good such catastrophes happening again. We 
reverence them ; but, why in the name of goodness and 


commonsense, should these home-workers be so abomin- 
ably prone every now and then to call us "Jingoes," 
"mad expansionists," and such-like things? and to 
openly hint that we should be spending our time better 
in attending to domestic affairs in England ; namely, 
those of us who are ministers of religion, attending to 
home religious affairs, instead of trying to convert the 
heathen ; those of us who are commercial men going 
on carpet-bagging expeditions about Europe and other 
civilised places, trying to sell manufactured articles, 
instead of devoting our time to supplying the manufac- 
turers with the stuff they use ? 

Picture to yourself, my friend, what the place would 
be like if we took this advice. Think of the row 
of it on the hearth of England. All the missionaries 
of all the various denominations, every one of them 
an ardent, earnest man and zealous, working away 
on this little island, on the unbelievers therein and 
on each other. Then all the statesmen, now engaged in 
administering our colonies abroad, mercifully now to a 
certain extent separated from each other, all crammed 
into one House of Commons. Well, it is patent to the 
meanest understanding that such a state of affairs would 
make this little island in the North Sea absolutely un- 
inhabitable for respectable working men and quiet stu- 
dents, and the amount of energy bottled up here would 
for a certainty plunge England into war with the whole 
Continent, and the United States of America on top 
within six months. No, things are better as they are ; 
there are plenty of good workers in England for Eng- 
land's domestic affairs, and plenty of money to support 
them, as is shown by a Bank rate of four per cent., and 
the recent adventures of Mr. Hooley ; and there are 
plenty of English, like myself, that are better employed 
anywhere, on the equator even, than kept at home ; and 
it is not our blame if a company promoter can get more 
money than an antarctic expedition or a technical 
education scheme. 

It is not necessary for me to deal with the other 
accusation in Mr. Wallace's paper at any length here, 


for this accusation that Imperialism is an undue strain 
on England, hindering her own higher development, is 
Mr. Wallace's main contention, and he returns to it 
again and again. He says, " History has shown us that 
expansion has so eaten into our resources and drained 
away our powers that we have never been able to 
perform our highest task, the work of raising our own 
national civilisation ; while the Empire is vast and 
showy our national education is small and contemptible, 
and the trade statistics show that the Empire fails to 
replace what it has taken away." One can only answer 
to this by categorical denial. History does not show it. 
During the modern outburst of Inperialism there has 
been an equally great outburst of practical and energetic 
endeavour to develop our own civilisation. If the 
Empire is vast and showy so is our national education 
establishment, and the latter absorbs more English 
home revenue than our Empire does, for most of it is, — 
as all of it, I grant, should be, — self-supporting, and those 
trade statistics show nothing of the kind. It is pathetic 
to see a man evidently honestly devoted to the interests 
of England's democracy, falling into so very great an 
error. How it is possible for any thinking man to do so 
I own I cannot understand, for he must know that 
our Imperialism has given to millions of Englishmen, 
opportunities of happiness, comfort, prosperity, the free 
exercise of all honest ambition, overseas. Think of 
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Contrast the life 
an Englishman can live there with the life a German 
can live in South America, an Italian in Brazil. The 
one is building upon his own freehold land, the other 
on leasehold ; the one is making his own country, the 
other the country of an alien. 

The sub-contention in Mr. Wallace's paper is that our 
Imperialism is doing no good to the races other than our 
own beneath our sway. He says, " Is our present 
rule everywhere free from oppression and demoralising 
influences ? Where does it make for peace and order ? 
Are the silent Indian people contented and happy ? Are 
we really making them strong and self-reliant, or are we 

428 IMPERIALISM chap. 

enervating them and rendering them less capable of 
standing alone ? " I am quite with Mr. Wallace here, 
only I should not put these things as questions, for it 
is beyond question that we are not doing our work 
with these people as we should do it, except in our 
great region India, where we employ in our adminis- 
tration experts and have brought to bear on them 
good intentions backed by enormous knowledge. When 
we do this in tropical Africa, tropical Africa will be a 
credit to us, but not till then. If we fail to speedily 
turn our attention to this, we shall build up in that 
interesting but unhealthy continent a new Ireland in 
feeling, a new West Indies in finance. But it is not a 
necessary part of either England's nature nor her 
Imperial spirit that this should be done. I appeal to 
all true Imperialists to bring their minds and energies 
to the service of giving England that truer knowledge 
which Spinoza calls the inward aid of God. With 
that knowledge England's instinct will guide her to 
justice. When just, there will be no chance of her 
ever being " one with Nineveh and Tyre " ; her Empire 
will be permanent. We want scientific knowledge and 
we want statecraft placed at the service of Imperialism. 
We want to know what there is good in the nature and 
institutions of alien races beneath our sway, because 
from the native good in them alone can we help on 
their developments. Regions like Central Africa are 
like unto a neglected garden. You can go and pull up 
or cut down everything and have a bonfire, and the 
garden will be tidy, as tidy as the Abomination of 
Desolation. You cannot colonise it with Englishmen 
as you could Australia. Or you can take the other 
course with that wild garden, weed it, plant it, prune 
it, cultivate it into a beautiful thing. Which will you 
do ? leave it a weed-grown place, where what is good is 
being strangled by rank weeds as the small Imperialist 
would wish you to? clear it out and have a bonfire 
— as the windy-headed amateur Imperialist, the short- 
sighted financier, the medal-hunting young soldier, 
who, — naturally and properly disgusted at your not 


fighting a European power, says " For Heaven's sake 
let's fight some one " — would have you do ? Or will you 
weed the garden and be as ready to fight white man 
as black as Sir Francis Drake was ? You have your 
choice to-day. This last course is the hardest one. 
You must study ; you must not allow your statecraft 
to be so imperfect that that great commercial class, 
England's manufacturers, on whose ability and industry 
you so greatly depend, are under England's flag in 
the self-same position that the Uitlanders were under 
Mr. Kruger. You must drop the use of many soothing 
words and all humbug, but it is worth your doing. The 
other courses in the end are not, they lead you to the 
wrecking place of Spain ; but this will give you, and will 
give you alone, the power to toss the torch of England's 
freedom on undimmed to England yet to come. 



, I AM certain you will feel a sense of irritation at 
having some one come and talk to you about West 
Africa when it is South Africa you are all so deeply 
interested in. I also am interested in South Africa, 
in the way so many of you are ; like you I have lost 
friends there, friends who I would far rather were 
mourning me than I them. But this does not justify 
me in joining the ranks of the uninitiated who, 
without any local knowledge of South Africa, are now 
discoursing on it by the dozen. It is no use my pre- 
tending to talk about South Africa in detail. The 
other side of this present rebellion in South Africa, 
namely the effect it has had on the British working 
classes, the quiet, steady, fierce splendour of spirit with 
which they are facing affairs, I should in a measure be 
justified in speaking on, merely adding a tribute to the 
well-deserved tribute of admiration it has elicited ; for 
all this autumn it has so happened that I have been 
away among the manufacturing towns of Yorkshire, 
Lancashire and Scotland, endeavouring to impress upon 
the working man there the importance of our tropical 
Empire at large, and of West Africa in particular. It 
is highly unlikely I persuaded them to this belief, but I 
can assure you that there is no doubt they persuaded 
me into a profound belief, a conviction, that such a 

1 Lecture delivered at the Imperial Institute, February 12, 1900. 

chap, xxn WORDS OF WARNING 431 

nation, properly led, must, let outside circumstances be 
what they may, become triumphant. But after all, you 
know this as well as I do, so until I know something of 
South Africa personally, I will say no more about it. 
I now turn to tropical Africa, of which West Africa is 
the most important part. I often feel, as I am sure the 
lady who told the tales in the Arabian Nights often 
felt, namely, that I shall get killed before I am half 
through with my information, and, moreover, I have 
more real cause for this fear than the aforesaid lady 
ever had — I do not mention her name, you all know it, 
and it is difficult to pronounce — for the information I 
have had to give about West Africa is far less charming 
than her tales were, and my grammar and composition 
infinitely inferior to hers. But up to to-night you have 
been very kind and tolerant to me about my West 
African discourses, and I humbly beg to thank you all 
most sincerely on this, the last night I shall, in all 
human probability, have the honour of speaking to 

Such being the case, I hope you will forgive me for 
to-night speaking to you unreservedly about West 
Africa. And if I seem to you to speak frivolously 
and presumptuously, I pray you remember I am 
fond of the place, and remain a hardened, unreformed, 
Imperial expansionist. I believe that you are in for 
a crash, in the West African section of our Empire, 
a shaking out of dream-land, similar to that which 
you have had in South Africa, though not a military 
one, mainly a financial one, but with widespread bad 
effects on our Empire at large ; and I know perfectly 
well that when that tropical African Empire of ours 
gives trouble, people up here will be persuaded that 
it is the joint fault of the Imperial expansionists who 
gave it to England, and the necessary consequence 
of the nature of the natives and the country. People 
up here who will come to believe any such explana- 
tion to be a true one, will imagine a vain thing. But 
1 would rather they never had an opportunity of 
trying to decide who was to blame — rather there was 


never a mess for them to deal with — gallantly as they 
would, I am sure, deal with it ; therefore I venture 
to speak to-night concerning the matter, for I be- 
lieve it is in your power to-day to avert a disas- 
ter; to-morrow, the men who will have to deal with 
affairs will be either free men, working for healthy pro- 
gress and development, or men fettered by your mis- 
takes, busied in correcting your errors. You stand at 
the parting of the roads. You are now undertaking 
the administration of extensive territories and great 
populations in West Africa. They will not stand at 
the parting of the roads, they will be down the road 
you elect to take to-day — either the road that will lead 
to a success, such as no nation has yet achieved in the 
tropics, or the old road that Spain and Portugal trod. 
It may be, indeed, you will not choose a definite road, 
but merely drift. Our predecessors drifted to and fro 
considerably in South African affairs — you see the 
consequences. I hope you will not give England to- 
morrow such a job in West Africa, merely to save 
yourselves a little trouble now, in this generation. 

It is, believe me, an important and interesting ques- 
tion which road you choose in dealing with West Africa 
to-day, and one worthy of your consideration. I fear 
you will take the easiest one for the time being, but I 
have never been a thoroughly cheerful person on the 
future of our Empire in West Africa, nor have I met 
any one who has ever been there who was. The truth 
is, it is an exceedingly difficult region, and that fact is 
forced on any student of it, or even a mere visitor to it 
I have spoken of those difficulties natural, racial, histori- 
cal and ethical elsewhere, so I will not detain you with 
them now. I merely beg respectfully to say, that I 
believe that when you take over any job you ought to 
know what you are aiming at getting. I believe it is 
absolutely essential for our success in the tropics, of 
which West Africa is the most difficult part and one of 
the most important, to know definitely what we want 
there. There are two ideals going in the public mind 
for the tropical portion of our Empire, and a third I will 


deal with later. I don't like any one of them. One is 
to gradually fit such regions as tropical Africa, Egypt 
and India, to become self-governing ; the other is drift — 
my feelings regarding drift are unsuitable for utterance 
here, and little better with regard to the others, but I 
will keep them in hand, and merely observe that the 
statement by you to those peoples of India, Egypt and 
tropical Africa, that you intend, when they are fit for 
it, to hand over independence to them is poison. You 
see the trouble comes in by a difference of opinion be- 
tween them and you as to when they are fit. They say 
we are fit to do without you now ; you know they are 
not They would precious soon find it out, but they don't 
know it now, and there is your unfulfilled promise, and 
you look like a humbug ; and so they breed bad feelings 
instead of attending to improving the state of their 
country, breeding cattle or growing grain enough to 
keep them from starving. Gentlemen, I hope you won't 
poison your tropical African Empire with the idea that 
you mean to some day cast it off. I humbly beg to 
suggest that our Imperial aim in the tropics should be 
to weld them and these little islands in the North Sea 
firmly together — to be together a free and happy nation, 
co-operating for mutual advantage ; a great store and 
treasure house of fighting men, ready money, statesman- 
ship and science, whereby the whole Empire may be 
defended against the outside world whenever it may 
choose to wage either commercial or red war on us — we, 
who should be liberty and justice. Think of all your 
tropical possessions as if they were towns, each with a 
way of its own and a worth of its own, as Sheffield, 
Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester have. 
Do not think of them as if they were Australia or 
Canada or New Zealand, who are young Englands 

You may say it is quite impossible to inspire a 
national feeling of devotion to England among coloured 
races. I do not pretend to know Asiatics, but I know 
Africans of various kinds — and remember they vary 
quite as much as Europeans — and I have no hesitation 

F F 


in saying that the finest of all native African races, the 
true negroes, whose home-land is in West Africa from 
Gambia to Cameroon, can be made as loyal and 
as devoted to England as the man in the street up here, 
provided you do not make two mistakes in dealing with 
them to-day. One mistake is giving him, unintention- 
ally I am sure on your part, an agrarian grievance ; any 
gentleman, even a white gentleman, one of the truest 
white gentlemen ever made, and one of the bravest — the 
Irish — when he has an agrarian grievance in his mind 
is not a comfort to the Empire or himself. It will be 
the same with the true negro if you give him now, for 
the first time, mind you, an agrarian grievance. Buying 
and selling him from people from whom he thought 
you had the right to buy him never shook his love for 
England ; but go and take away his own land in his own 
home country when you said you would not, in treaties 
and by word of mouth for more than a hundred years ; 
go and make him, without consulting him, a tenant at 
will where he was once holder absolute, and a trustee for 
his future generations in the bargain, and you will give 
him an agrarian grievance ; and how he feels about it he 
explained in the Hut Tax War in Sierra Leone. Then 
there is the other mistake you can make with him — I am 
obliged to refer to it delicately because our American 
cousins caught the disease (all mistakes are diseases) 
very bad in their constitution. Instead of taking as 
model principles those of the British Constitution, 
which I take it are Liberty, Justice and Representation, 
they took those of the French Revolution, Liberty, 
Equality, Fraternity. This is an unworkable thing 
because not in touch with facts ; hence it is one of 
the most dangerous diseases a National Constitution 
can catch, and it has a horrid eruption, humbug. You 
have got a nasty touch of it yourselves, but for 
goodness sake, stamp it out ; humbug is poison 
wherever found. Strong men up here may just sneer 
at it and consider it is necessary ; but strong men in 
Africa — negroes — won't look at it in that way ; in 
their eyes it is breaking Faith ; and in their eyes it is 


a crime between man and man, that no bribe, no gift, 
nothing but blood can wipe out. You may give to every 
true negro a Bond-street suit of clothes, a grand piano, 
a mangle, a Maxim gun and a university, to make 
him love you, and he won't, if you break your given 
word. Therefore I pray you, don't promise him, as 
America did, a vote in a vestry system, not his vestry 
but your own vestry, where you cannot have him. Do 
not promise him a thing you cannot give him ; promise 
him something you can. 

As custodians of the British Constitution you can 
safely promise him three things : Liberty for all men to 
develop all that is good in them, to battle down all that 
is bad ; Justice to all men ; even-handed tiger Justice that 
knows neither white from black, weak from strong, poor 
from rich. Such Justice can only be attained by man im- 
perfectly, only be approached by the paths of knowledge 
of the facts of the case tempered with mercy, because 
human knowledge is so incomplete ; but this pure 
hard Justice is the thing to aim for. I pray you do not 
think it can be attained by sentimental mercy alone, 
that is a side street. I pray you do not think it can be 
attained by having one Justice for white and one for 
black. Thirdly, you can promise him Representation, 
not your form suited to your own race, but his form 
suited to his race. By doing this you will have him with 
you as a free, unsmashed man — not as a whitewashed 
slave or an enemy. Lastly, gentlemen, in connection 
with this Imperial consideration of West African affairs, 
I beg you, now you are extending your Empire into 
tropical Africa, where you are unfettered by mistakes in 
the past, to start fair and keep fair ; be not led away by 
catch phrases ; promise no man the moon ; but keep 
every promise you have given, and may give in future, 
though it be hard to keep. The sanctity of the given 
word is a higher sanctity than good intentions. I know 
there are two parties against me in this contention. One 
party says solemnly it is our duty to elevate the African 
by every means in our power. I say yes, except one, 
that one is disgracing our own honour. The other party 

F F 2 


says, what is the good of saying we can keep honour- 
able in tropical Africa, when part of our Imperialism 
necessarily is taking the country from its native owners ? 
I say no, that is not part of our Imperialism there. The 
extension of our Empire there does not necessarily 
mean subjugating the native and taking from him his 
lands, or property, and the men up here who may so 
engineer our Imperialism are not true Imperialists, 
British Imperialists, they are remainders over from the 
councillors who sent his late Majesty Philip of Spain 
down the road to ruin. This policy of creating an agrarian 
grievance in tropical Africa is a policy neither profitable 
nor just ; there is neither gold nor good in it, and it is 
one, I believe, you will not pursue if you will give the 
same amount of earnest thought and consideration to 
Imperialism that you give to the grievances of cyclists 
about the state of the roads. On the other hand, with 
those people who say we have no moral right to take 
over the whole of tropical Africa, I have no sympathy. 
They are estimable people but narrow-minded, for there 
is a thing in tropical Africa, even in the most highly 
developed native part, West Africa, that no native has, 
so in taking it we are not stealing it from him. That 
thing is the Oberhoheit. There is no English word for 
it — it means the power to rule at the top of things, the 
power to enforce peace among peoples, to secure com- 
mercial communication and provide an ultimate court of 
appeal in matters of Justice, to be king over kings, ruler 
over many peoples. This power that we steal from no 
one, we have every right to have — it does not need to 
steal the native's land. The other policy we can pursue 
in tropical Africa, the Landeshoheit, is one we have 
neither right to, nor use for, in tropical Africa, which 
is unfit, and will, as long as astronomical conditions are 
as they are, remain unfit for colonisation by our white 
population. It is a region suitable for our trade colon- 
isation, but what we want there is not Landeshoheit 
but Oberhoheit. It is not imperially necessary for us 
to steal the native's land in deadly West Africa, and 
give the true negroes in their home country an agrarian 


grievance ; so I hope you will not do it. I suppose 
one ought not to have friends who are born thieves, 
but I have one — he is alive still, and I trust may 
long remain so. I will not mention his name or 
address, but merely a sad affair that occurred to 
him while I was in his society, though I assure you 
I was not an accessory before the fact. A box, a 
white man's packing case thing, was on his canoe in 
which I was then travelling ; well, when we retired in the 
evening time to an island and opened the case, it con- 
tained nothing but Alexandra feeding bottles for infants. 
My poor pirate friend's remarks I will not dwell on, they 
are unfit for repetition here. The way he had person- 
ally to whack his subordinates who grinned — they all 
grinned — was truly sad. The whole thing was deeply 
deplorable from every point of view, for, with an enor- 
mous amount of care, trouble, enterprise, and daring, he 
had been and stolen that case from a missionary, and 
that case was something that was no mortal good to 
him. True, he was a family man, he had infants of his 
own, dozens of them, but he could not work off those 
feeding bottles on them, they would not have taken to 
the things, and of course he had, by taking them, got the 
back of the real owner of those feeding bottles badly 
up. Well, if you steal the Landeshoheit in West Africa, 
you will do the same thing my friend did — and will be 
morally as bad as he, and make an equal fool of your- 
self in the bargain, for your own infants won't colonise 
those lands. If you must steal things, for goodness' 
sake steal something useful. 

Well, West Africa's worth to us consists in its being 
the richest portion of our tropical African Empire. The 
worth to us of tropical possessions, especially when they 
are very unhealthy to white men, as West Africa is, is a 
thing that has frequently been questioned ; some 
eminent men have gravely doubted whether our recent 
great expansion in West and tropical Central Africa has 
been wise, while others only reconcile themselves to it 
because they believe our rule confers a benefit on the 
native population. But others, whom I humbly follow, 


say that tropical raw-material-producing regions are as 
necessary to us as a great manufacturing nation as 
wheat-producing regions are to us as a densely populated 
one, and we have a safer hold both on wheat and 
tropical raw material when it is grown under our own 
flag. As you know, one school among the students of the 
sources of our national wealth holds that the prosperity 
of England depends on the prosperity of the whole 
world, more than it does on her own oversea-empire. 
Of course in a way it does ; but what average cautious 
man would trust the world at large, just because 
we invest money in it and trade fair with it, to behave 
well and steadily as a whole for more than a few years 
at a time, now and then ? Not I, at any rate. Mundane 
affairs are in an imperfect state, and I believe will for 
some time remain so. Therefore I believe mere 
common sense and caution enforce on us the advisa- 
bility of having an all-round self-contained empire 
on which we could fall back for supplies, were any 
part of the rest of the world to fail us in them. 
The misery entailed on English homes by the cotton 
famine in the days of the American Civil War seems 
almost forgotten, excellent object lesson as it was. Raw 
cotton possibly will not fail us again, though it is awfully 
high priced to-day, but we should be inconvenienced in 
tropical raw material if the States of Central and South 
America were to neglect business for war — not so deeply 
inconvenienced as we were in the sixties, because we 
can now, thanks to our West African, Malayan and 
Indian possessions, get tropical raw material, for 
example rubber, from them ; but still the inconvenience 
would be bad enough. Surely then it is better for us 
to hold such regions ourselves than to rely entirely 
on foreign States and their possessions. Now West 
Africa is one of the richest regions for tropical stuff. Be 
it granted it is unhealthy, and, I may say, you may 
take it as a general rule that throughout tropical Africa 
the regions that are the most unhealthy are also the 
richest. Plateau lands there of mica schist, mountain 
flanks and deserts, are all very well in their way, 


except the first-named, which is an utter abomination 
— but practically valueless, because India can do all 
they can do, and do it better. But the rank, great, 
stinking, steaming swamp lands are rich, and no con- 
tinent can touch Africa for them, particularly West 
Africa, which is a very rich goldfield into the bar- 
gain. I fear it is absolutely necessary that we should 
pay a toll to King Death for holding Empire in West 
Africa — a toll in men dying of fever that is a higher 
percentage than the percentage that we are losing now 
on the battle-field of South Africa. The drain this 
fever-death rate has been on us in West Africa during 
these past 200 years has been too heavy for us to 
support and prosper, so we have not prospered there as 
we have in places where the death-toll has been lower. 
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, first among all British states- 
men, recognised this evil, and set himself about 
remedying it in a practical way, and in this effort he has 
been grandly supported by the merchants of Liverpool 
and Manchester, and by those ladies who have organised 
the Colonial Nursing Association. I wish I could tell 
you one-half of what I know about Mr. Chamberlain's 
action in improving and strengthening the medical and 
nursing service, the forces to fight Death, our greatest 
enemy in the tropics ; about the way he established the 
School for the study of tropical diseases in London, 
where calm scientific work could be carried on, and 
called in, to aid him in his endeavour to save white men's 
lives in the tropics, all the most modern and perfect aid 
Science could give him. Mr. Chamberlain in this matter 
has done a grand good thing, and done it nobly, for no 
one urged it on him, it was done to catch no votes — 
white men in West Africa have none. It was not 
done to add to his own reputation or glorification as 
a statesman ; he has given time, thought and labour 
to it that he could, had he cared for that end, 
have spent in advertising himself. It was done from 
humane sympathy alone, and it was done with a grasp 
of the situation and of the best means to meet it, 
that in my mind marks Mr. Chamberlain out as a 


Statesman who, when he either knows the facts of the 
case himself, or when he is well and soundly instructed 
in them, is a man to be trusted up to the hilt as a 
statesman, and honoured as a man. For away behind 
the public loss we suffer in the tropics by the loss of 
men's lives from fever, there is a wilderness of sorrow, 
poverty and gloom up here, peopled by widows and 
orphans, mothers and fathers, sisters and friends, who 
mourn their dead and have to battle on with the 
world unaided and uncheered by the men who have 
died of fever far away ; these people owe to Mr. 
Chamberlain, and those working with him in this 
cause, a deep gratitude, — a gratitude they cannot pay 
him down for. To speak as the fly to the Buffalo, Mr. 
Chamberlain and myself have lived a sort of cat and 
dog life in West Africa's domestic affairs on the subject 
of the hut tax in Sierra Leone ; probably we shall 
continue to live that life to the end of our respective 
earthly terms. What Mr. Chamberlain's opinion of me is I 
do not know, I expect it has blue lightnings in it and 
smells of sulphur. I, as aforesaid, believe in him and 
trust him when he knows the facts of the case, and the 
facts of the native population case he does not know, 
and will not till he calls in science to that too. But that 
is not his blame, nor the blame of any single white man 
mixed up in it ; it is the blame of the system, by which 
I do not mean the British Constitution but that system 
that is in the British Constitution, without having any 
British Constitution in it, the Crown Colony system. I 
will not detain you on the Crown Colony system, for I 
have dealt with it elsewhere. 1 

Now, as regards the nature of the country a few 
things have to be considered. Take the map of 
Africa, draw a pencil line along longitude 12° down 
to the Equator — for natural history you have to draw 
it down longitude 30 , but politically longitude 12° 
will serve. Well, to the west of that line you will 
have the region we are dealing with to-night. Along 
the northern shores of the continent — the Mediter- 
1 Supra, pp. 256-358. 


ranean seaboard — you have a corn-bearing and gener- 
ally fertile and semi-fertile region ; to the south its 
fertility fades away into the desert of Sahara; south of 
that, again, you come to a semi-fertile region, the Western 
Soudan, its fertility depends largely on the River Niger 
Jouiba, which, like the Nile, floods at certain seasons of 
the year and fertilises its circumjacent lands ; to the south 
of the valley of the Niger, again, you get a semi-desert, 
then semi-fertile region, and, finally, to the south of that 
you get a very heavily forested country whose seaboard 
faces the Gulf of Guinea. This band of forest, in which 
our possessions Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast lie, is 
the richest band of forest in the world, but it is only a 
narrow band, its eastern termination is in our Colony 
Lagos ; there is a sort of wedge of more open country 
with dense forests here and there, coming down from 
the Sahara to the sea in the Lagos colony ; to the east 
you strike the mangrove swamps of the Niger delta, and 
behind them you get to the east the northern face of the 
great forest belt of Africa. In the heart of the forest 
belt in West Africa we have no possessions, because 
there is nothing British between Calabar and Walfisch 
Bay, down far south. If any of you are interested in 
details concerning this region's trade and possibilities I 
must refer you to Dr. Austin Freeman's Ashantee and 
Jaman, M. le Captain Benger's great book in French on 
the Niger and the Gulf of Guinea, and an article by Mr. 
Edwards in the April number of the Fortnightly Review 
for 1898, and M. Dubois' book on Timbuctoo, and such 
like things. 

I now turn to that highly dangerous and inflammable 
subject, the native African population, feeling just as I 
felt when dealing with my last crocodile, namely, just as 
frightened as when dealing with my first. I have always 
been very careful in dealing with this subject, yet you 
behold in me the warrior of a hundred fights, quiet and 
inoffensive as my remarks have ever been. I have had 
down on me at one and the same time a most distin- 
guished major, a bishop, and a medical missionary, all 
able, energetic men, too, every one of them, with a 


literary gift in full-going order ; to say nothing of side 
fights with hut tax champions, and a Liberian gentle- 
man who went for me the other day because he said he 
believed I regarded the Lord Mayor of London as 
superior to a certain eminent African scholar. I have 
the greatest respect for the Lord Mayor of London, 
though I do not know him, and for the African gentle- 
man in question, though I do ; and I would not dream of 
doing a thing like that which would hurt both their 
respective feelings. Of course the reason for my getting 
into hot water is that I have said that the African is 
different, which is a statement I stick to ; it is that word 
different that gets me into trouble every time : had I 
said he was inferior I should have had a ready- 
made section of opinion to go with me ; had I said 
he was superior, I should have had another ready- 
made section of opinion to go with me ; but I said 
different^ and I said also and say so still, that the African 
you have got in your minds up here, that you are legis- 
lating for and spending millions on trying to improve, 
doesn't exist ; your African is a fancy African. 

This has had of course the tendency to combine both 
the aforesaid sections of ready-made opinion against me, 
and they went together and found out that I had an- 
cestors connected with the slave trade ; well, I had, and 
am not ashamed of it. It has been an elegant fight, 
conducted on my opponents' side with the greatest 
courtesy, and they have won. You keep your fancy 
African and I wish you joy of him, but I grieve more 
bitterly than I can say for the real African that does 
exist and suffers for all the mistakes you make in dealing 
with him through a dream-thing, the fiend-child African 
of your imagination. Above all, I grieve for the true 
Negro people whose home is in West Africa from Gambia 
to Cameroon, the finest of all the pure African races, 
who trusted you and thought you were his Big friend, 
and who now does not do so to one-half the extent he 
did four years ago. I will not go so far as Homer and 
call him " the blameless Ethiopian," for he is an un- 
common shrewd man with notions about rights of 


property and so on, but he is, taken all round, gentle, 
kindly, hospitable, willing, cheerful, and strong. If he 
were only white or yellow even, if he only always wore 
even 31^. 6d. suits of clothes, if he only had a written 
literature, all his iniquities would not have the horror to 
you they have now. It is an emotional horror which 
it is no use arguing with, but which is no part of a 
healthy 1 mperialist spirit. 

Lord Rosebery says we are a wasteful people ; cer- 
tainly we have wasted a lot of fine stuff in West Africa, 
white and black : another of our statesmen once said 
we built a wall of white corpses around the African 
coast to suppress the over-sea slave trade. It looks now 
as if we should build a similar wall to suppress pagan 
practices and the internal slave trade, but what is the 
use of talking ? Only remember it is not war that I 
hate there or anywhere, it is waste. Many a war in 
West Africa like Sir Gilbert Carter's against the Jebus, 
like Sir George Goldie's against the Fuloani, were good 
and necessary wars, and they were well-done wars too ; 
but those other wars arising from amateur finance and 
ignorance are mere waste. The sooner you get rid of 
amateur finance and ignorance the better ; if you cannot, 
if it is impracticable, you are not fit to manage the British 
Empire in so naturally difficult a region as tropical 
Africa, with its great native population and great un- 
healthiness for whites. But it is no use talking. Well, these 
true Negro people of West Africa are a strongly marked 
race. As aforesaid, their home country is from Gambia to 
Cameroon : there is evidence to show that at one period 
they extended further into the western Soudan than they 
now do ; how far they extended to the east as rulers we 
do not know, but we have reason to suspect from classic 
literature that they were in immediate touch both with 
Carthage and Egypt. Two great factors have plainly 
come into play in their history, namely, the Berber and 
European races ; they have both, from a national stand- 
point, treated the true Negro on financial-religious lines. 
The Berber has raided him for slaves, the European 
bought them from the Berber, commonly called the 


Arab, but a mixture of Arab and Berber and negro in 
West and Central Africa, has employed the true negro 
slave in developing the East, the Europeans in develop- 
ing the West, the Americas. They both know he is the 
finest labour material in the world for the tropics, and 
they both, well knowing that their respective religions, 
and the common humane feeling, do not approve of the 
goings on in connection with slavery, gloss them over 
with the excuse that it does the African good, because 
it gives him a chance of siving his soul. You know 
Boswell says in the life of Dr. Johnson regarding the 
slave trade, " that to abolish this trade would be to 
shut the gates of mercy on mankind." Nowadays the 
European, pre-eminently the English, have thrown from 
them this bit of humbug, and for getting rid of it you 
have to thank those noble missionaries of ours who 
have gone for their religion to Africa, for that religion 
alone, not for the sake of making money out of the 
African at the same time ; they have taken away this 
excuse that to convert the African you must export 
him from Africa. But humbug is hard to kill. There- 
fore now the party that is anxious for cheap African 
labour, being cut off by the missionaries' action of 
giving Christianity without asking money and labour 
in exchange for it, from sheltering themselves under 
the religious excuse, have gone and got another ; it 
is called " elevating the African in the plane of civil- 
isation." It is hard on civilisation, just as it was on 
religion, to be used as a cloak for things, but it takes 
people in who would not permit the open slave trade ; 
but if people will look into it, I think this civilisation 
cloak will be stripped off. First, think what this 
word civilisation means. In its higher sense it means a 
compound thing, not a mixture of a certain state of 
perfection in arts and crafts, and it means a thing we 
have no word for in English, we have to go to Germany 
for it ; there it is called Bildung, and the whole thing 
we call civilisation is called Kultur, and a far better 
word it is too. Professor Sully in last month's Fort- 
nightly has an admirable paper on it. Well, we may by 


our present system of dealing with the African under 
the guise of elevating him in the plane of civilisation, 
advance him in the arts and crafts department, but in 
the Bildung, the improvement of the man's mind and 
soul, we are retarding his development, not aiding it. 
Now, in connection with this getting African labour 
under the guise of great principles like Religion and 
Civilisation there is a most important thing to be 
considered from the political point of view. Wearing 
either cloak, however falsely, brings with it ultimate 
consequences. In the case of wearing the cloak 
Religion a difficult position has been created in Church 
matters. It is a difficult position, but one I pretend 
to no opinion on. In the case of wearing the cloak 
Civilisation in dealing with the African there is being 
created a very difficult and dangerous position to the 
State, and one most of us have a strong opinion 
on, particularly those who have studied the Negro 
problem in America. You have already in South 
Africa laid the foundation for a similar problem by 
granting the vote to the black population ; you are 
now laying the foundation for it in West Africa by 
directly taxing the natives. If you tax a man or 
his land that man, according to the British Consti- 
tution, must have a vote. I have an unbounded belief 
in the British Constitution, and believe its principles 
are so near truth that they will have their way. 
One main principle of our constitution is " no taxation 
without representation," and direct representation of the 
native we must have if things are to be well with us 
and them ; but not this vote, this jury system and vestry- 
manism, which is a development of the British Constitu- 
tion suitable for us — in fact, our local government system. 
It is not their local government system. You don't give 
them representation by giving them our parliamentary 
franchise which you cannot let them use ; you would give 
them representation by representing, in our councils 
concerning their interests, their own local government 
system, one developed by the genius of the people and 
adapted to their local environment. This is, of course, 


the rule-the-native-on-native-lines doctrine which is, I 
believe, the right one, but I am told it is impossible, 
because the rule of the African chief is so bad. I am 
aware of the nature of that rule in some districts, and 
from what I know I say the harm of it is exaggerated ; 
the harm done when that rule is broken down and the 
Hausa policeman is put to rule over chaos is worse. 
The native state-form can be developed, and it is healthy ; 
the other is a disease, and the more you have of it the 
worse for all parties concerned, barring the criminal 
native classes. Burglary as a profession is in a 
far more prosperous state now in our coast towns in 
West Africa than it has ever been. I do not believe 
you are elevating the African in the plane of civilisation 
when you turn him into a criminal or a clerk (you can 
do without either), or when you produce so large a per- 
centage of these non-marketable commodities as you 
now do. I do not deny you can really elevate him with 
a proper method. Your intentions are good, your men 
are good, the British Constitution is good, but it is the 
method whereby these things are now co-ordinated that 
is bad, and that wastes white endeavours. This method, 
if it must be preserved, should be preserved, not at 
Westminster, but at that valuable institution the British 
Museum at Bloomsbury. 

The form of government native to the true negroes 
is a Democracy with a figure head, the Chief. In certain 
places under local strain of political conditions, as in 
Ashantee and Dahomey and Benin, the figure-head has 
been turned into something like an hereditary absolute 
king ; some of the kings of those places have been 
good men, some bad, but all have been dominated 
by the local religion, some more than others ; some 
have, as it were, gone in for the Inquisition as fiercely 
as Philip of Spain, some for witch-burning like our 
James, some have not ; but absolute monarchs they 
never are, only the custodians of the tribal power and 
wealth at the time being, none of them legally having 
the right to alienate these things or use them for their 
own private ends — all of them existing only just so long 

xxii THE KRU SYSTEM 447 

as the tribal Secret Society saw fit. The two most 
native forms of the state are the House system 
of Calabar, which I have already described, 1 and the 
system whereby the Kru men are governed. In the 
Km system you have no king, and the democracy is 
divided into three classes, or rather three ages of free 
men. The most powerful class is the Gueckbade, or old 
men, it has two presidents, the Bodio and the Wora- 
banah. The Bodio, who is really a fetish or religious 
king, rules in times of peace, the Worabanah in times 
of war ; the Bodio's advantages consist in the right 
to wear an iron ring round his ankle, be obeyed, re- 
ceive a small toll from the community, and be feared 
and respected as long as things go well with the 
community in the main ; when they do not the Bodio 
can be deposed, and it is disgraceful to be a deposed 
Bodio, and moreover even when the gods are with 
him, and trade and agriculture flourish, his life is not 
one of unalloyed calm and splendour, for his house is 
sanctuary and a man whose house is open night and 
day for all men and women passing from summary 
justice — has no domestic comfort worth speaking of 
in West Africa. The Worabanah is, I believe, a fore- 
runner of a secular king ; given enough war he would 
undoubtedly turn into a king. Next in grade to the 
Gueckbade class come the military Sedibo, the middle- 
aged men — practically they rule the state, but under 
the right of veto from the Gueckbade. The Sedibo have 
also two presidents, the Ibadio and the Tibawah ; they 
are equivalent in function to the Bodio and Worabanah ; 
one is a religious person who looks after military 
affairs in times of peace, the other is entirely secular 
and takes charge in times of war. Next in grade to the 
Sedibo are the Kurbo. These are the young men and 
the Kruboys, all men known in West Africa as the under- 
worked in all hard work, as seamen, servants, stewards' 
helpers, in anything but clerking ; they have to go 
and work and get money and what they call learn 
sense, until they have enough of these things, and are 
1 Supra, pp. 398, 399. 


old enough to go back to their country and settle down 
as Sedibo. The young Kurbo have at home a roughish 
time of it, their only friend is their mother, and they 
have to work at home as well as abroad, for no slaves 
are kept by the Kru people ; so the women and the 
Kurbo do it for the Sedibo and Gueckbade of Kru 

The Secret Society affair is too intricate for me to 
enter fully into here. Briefly, the African has a sort of 
mania for secret societies ; he gets up one for any little 
job he has on hand, it's his way, like the Chinaman's. 
Some of the African secret societies are good, some 
bad, some merely so-so ; some are equivalent to your 
Freemasonry, some to your Hooligan gangs, some to 
your Antediluvian Buffaloes and Ancient Shepherds, 
some to your Burial Clubs. The tribal secret societies, 
likePurroh,Egbo,Oru,Idiong, etc., are admirable engines 
of government. Of course when inspired by a bad 
motive they are a nuisance, because powerful, but the 
machine as a machine for the people is splendid ; it can 
tackle a tyrannous chief, keep women in order, and 
even regulate pigs and chickens, as nothing else has 
been able to in West Africa. In fact I have never 
seen anything that as a machine the tribal secret, could 
not, I believe, successfully tackle. In dealing with these 
secret societies in West Africa may I ask you to re- 
member the words of Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew 
Clarke, that statesman to whom the Empire owes 
so"much in the Straits Settlements. In 1873 he was 
sent out to put right the state of affairs in the Malay 
Peninsula, a state of affairs our Colonial Office very 
properly disapproved of, and I should like you to read 
carefully his remarks recently published in Vol. I. of 
the British Empire Series. It was Chinese secret societies 
that were being a nuisance when Sir Andrew stepped in 
to tidy things up, and he says : " The main evil is the 
secrecy observed in the deliberations and proceed- 
ings of these societies. Try and suppress them 
altogether, and you will drive them deeper below the 
surface and render them really dangerous. On the 


other hand, recognise them as long as they keep within 
the confines of the law, insist as far as possible on open 
meetings and publicity of accounts, and then you will find 
them a powerful lever ready to your hand. You will be 
able to hold the leaders responsible for illegality ; you 
may even manipulate the secret society for your own ends. 
This was the course pursued with success in the case of 
the Malay States, and I am indebted to the chief of the 
Chinese Secret Societies for support readily accorded as 
soon as they understood the principles upon which my 
action was based." These words are not the words of a 
mere student like myself, they are the words of a man 
who has done what he recommends and found it pos- 
sible to carry out, with the sanction of our Colonial Office 
when it had a Sir Andrew Clarke man as an official. I 
assure you in the great law-god societies of the true 
Negro people, in Parroh, Oru, Egbo, Idiong, and Belli, you 
have a lever ready to your hand ; you want the hand of a 
Sir Andrew Clarke man to use it, and that is all. I know 
you will say that these secret societies have horrible 
rites, and so on : if any one can give any details of 
those rites they will be very interesting to us anthro- 
pologists. I am certain the Anthropological Institute 
will give every attention. If you will cite me one 
sound case where cannibalism or human sacrifice is 
an essential rite in a law- god negro tribal society, I 
will retract what I say in their favour. I have studied 
these societies ; I am in possession of fairly complete 
knowledge of the initiatory rites of three of them. 
I know men acquainted with ten other societies, men 
whose word I can take, and their information is prac- 
tically the same as my own, namely that those rites 
essentially consist in a series of oath-takings as you pass 
from grade to grade, oaths binding the secret more and 
more closely on to the man passing through the grades, 
binding it to him with terrible threats of what will happen 
to him if he reveal it to any but a fellow of the craft. 
Each grade gives him a certain amount of instruction in 
the native law ; each grade gives him a certain function 
in carrying out the law, and finally when he has passed 

G G 


through all the grades, which few men do, when he has 
finally sworn the greatest oath of all, when he knows 
all the society's heart's secret, that secret is " I am what 
I am " — the one word. The teaching of that word is law, 
order, justice, morality. Why the one word teaches it 
the man who has reached the innermost heart of the 
secret society does not know, but he knows two things, 
one, that there is a law god, and the other that, so says 
the wisdom of our ancestors, his will must be worked or 
evil will come : so in his generation he works to keep 
the young people straight — to keep the people from 
over-fishing the lagoons, to keep the people from 
cutting palm nuts, and from digging yams at wrong 
seasons. He does these things by putting Purroh, or 
Oru, or Egbo on them ; Purroh, Oru and Egbo and 
Idiong are things the people fear. I daresay there 
is a good deal to be said against the law-god society, 
but I ask you to face the social situation. There 
are bad Africans, lots of them, criminal Africans, 
vicious minded, sensual Africans, and there are flighty 
Africans of both sexes simply galore, " in an exceeding 
plentie." Now to make things go well, those people 
must be kept in order : crush down your chief, crush 
down your secret law god society, and what happens ? 
What can you put in their place ? A good, clean- 
hearted, well-intentioned white man, acting through a 
miscellaneous native official staff, and under these the 
criminal and vicious population, forming themselves 
into murder and burglary clubs, harassing the respect- 
able African citizen out of his property and wits, 
and leading the frivolous down the road to ruin. 
You have therefore the choice of purifying and de- 
veloping the native system of government, the chief and 
the secret society, or of creating a chaos, a thing it 
pleases you to call " elevating the African in the plane 
of civilisation " — or you may say sadly, " we know it is 
bad, but we could not help it." 

You must not think I am speaking merely with an 
ethnologist's natural love for a savage thing in saying 

xxil A CASE IN POINT 451 

what I have said about the tribal Secret Society, neither, 
I pray you, think I never hit up against a tribal Secret 
Society, and so cannot sympathise with those white men 
who do. On the contrary I had twenty-four hours of the 
very hottest brand with one, a big one that rules the 
Iglawa. I was then staying with my lamented friend 
the Rev. Hermann Jacot of the Mission Evangelique — 
one of the noblest spirits ever given to Africa ; one of 
the white race's greatest ornaments, and the black race's 
truest friends ; he was ill, not with the illness he died of, 
but ill, and his devoted wife was most anxious about 
him, and also anxious with him about news that had 
come up, that at a village down the Orimbo vungo, there 
were a man and woman about to be killed by order of 
Ukukar. I offered to do what I could, and asked for 
instructions how to act There were two things one could 
do. One was send for the French Government gun-boat. 
Against that line of action there were two considerations ; 
one was, that that gun-boat wasn't there, it was elsewhere 
far off on business, another was that Hermann Jacot never 
once, though living among some of the wildest and 
hottest of African people, the Bafangh, had had one 
single native village burnt at his request, so the mailed 
fist-line was out of it altogether in this matter. I was 
a person of no authority there, still the thing had to be 
done, for Mrs. Jacot said, " You must bring those two 
people here or the worry of it will kill Hermann." 
Women are very unreasonable ; so I went down to the 
village, and I had the aforesaid hot time. I brought the 
two back in a canoe and they settled at the Mission 
Station. As to how I did it, well, I did not take the 
Missionary's name in vain,, or the French Government's. 
I worked it on my own responsibility through the head 
man of the tribal Secret Society, by talking over points 
of his law, and by adding to my bill with the local 
traders. I got criticism, very sharp criticism, from the 
Missionary, for associating with pagan practices, but 
I got none from his wife, and this is not the only 
case by many where I have been able to do a thing 
by means of the tribal Secret Society. 

G G 2 


As for the nature of the other Societies, not the Tribal 
Secret, their functions are varied. There is a Society, as I 
have said, for most things. There is one I know at 
Qualbo, which Mr. Fitzgerald Marriot, an authority on 
Secret Societies in West Africa, gave a description of 
at the British Association, for protecting the goods of 
widows and orphans ; there are Societies which I know 
of, and many others, which, disguised as leopards or 
crocodiles, murder for murder's sake, or for the sake of 
getting certain parts